I know exactly how that family feels.
Those thoughts ran through Brenda's mind on a recent visit to Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana. She had just walked by the family conference room in the Residential Treatment Center with her son, Zack. Enjoying a day off from public school, Zack wanted to come back to Cunningham to say "hi" to Barb, who used to be his therapist.
Brenda pictured herself and Zack, sitting in the same chairs around the same long conference table. Nearly three years ago, her son's anger was out of control. "I didn't recognize who my son was becoming, it was almost like he was a monster," she whispers.
Zack's fits of rage about another family member manifested itself in physical aggression both at home and in school. Brenda remembers it was getting very difficult to keep Zack safe, along with the rest of the family. Initially, he was admitted to a residential treatment program in another state. Not satisfied with the care that Zack was receiving, Brenda continued searching for the best place for him. With the help of his case manager, Zack arrived at Cunningham several months later.
There was a brief adjustment period, but Zack quickly was able to develop positive relationships with Barb. Trust followed. Then his journey to therapeutic care began. Zack stopped blaming himself for the hurtful actions that he had experienced. His mom was a big advocate and attended family therapy, which included keeping lines of communication open. Zack started going home on weekend visits, I carried out the same expectations in my home that Zack had at Cunningham," recalls Brenda.
Zack and Brenda say life looks much different now. It's been almost one year since Zack left Cunningham. He is enrolled in public school, may join the football team next fall, and continues to use the coping mechanisms that Barb taught him. "Now I try to not let things bother me. I count to 10, take deep breaths and just walk away," he says.
Zack has found peace within himself. Brenda hopes the family in the conference room will also experience peace someday. "I wish I could have held their hands and shared with them that it does get better."
Grinning, Zack looks at his mom and agrees.