Editor's Note: Window on the Clearwater has joined the Wednesday's Child network to help spread the word about children that are waiting for families to give them the loving care that they need. Each Wednesday we will profile a different child. For more information about Wednesday's Child and how you can be involved check the web site at: http://www.idahowednesdayschild.org/.
When Lisa came to the Wednesday's Child program on November 4, 1998, she looked like an adorable 5 year-old child on the outside. The reality was that abusive brain trauma, commonly known as "shaken baby syndrome," had changed the course of her life.
Dressed in a white lace dress and hat, Lisa looked the perfect cherub as she walked into a photography studio to meet Dee Sarton and the KTVB camerman for her Wednesday's Child interview. In reality, Lisa operated cognitively and behaviorally on the level of a toddler. Challenges related to her brain trauma overwhelmed four foster care providers. An active child with high impulsivity and limited attention span, Lisa tested the stamina of photographer Terrell Moffett as she flitted from one place to another in his photography studio. Lisa's portrait truly captured the essence of her happy, irrepressible spirit.
Finding an adoptive family equipped for severe needs was another matter. Over time, Lisa's permanency plan changed to long-term foster care with hope for permanent guardianship when more was known about what level of care might be needed throughout her life.
The beautiful portrait of Lisa remained with the Wednesday's Child Program for eleven years--absent an adoptive or guardian family to give it to. It reminded us that a moment of parental rage could profoundly impair a child's life. In August of 2011, with the help of Lisa's caseworker from long ago, we sought to find Lisa. What would her life be after all these years?
Before knowing the rest of the story, it's necessary to go back to the summer of 2002, shortly after Lisa's photolisting was deactivated. That's about the time Kathie entered Lisa's life as a new developmental technician. After one day working with Lisa and another child, Kathie said she thought to herself, "I'm not cut out for this work at all!" Lisa's behaviors were off the charts and her progress seemed stalled. "She was like a wild little animal," said Kathie. "It was as if she didn't know how to do some of the simplest things you'd expect at her age. But I noticed that she trusted me and followed me around--wanted to be with me." Kathie started taking Lisa with her to the park or on drives--anywhere to introduce her to a world of new discoveries. And how Lisa responded!
"As I got to know her," said Kathie, "I realized her environment could make a huge difference, and I could provide that for her. I started doing whatever was needed to become a foster parent. When I became licensed, Lisa came to live with me. I became her legal guardian in December, 2002, and recently when she turned 18, my husband Brian and I were certified as her adult guardians."
According to Kathie, from the day Lisa joined their family, she's been treated like a full-fledged member of the family, with rules, consequences, chores and lots of love. Kathie said, "We're not young chickens any more, so we wanted to be sure if anything happened to us, Lisa would have the services she needs through the Department of Health and Welfare. But as far as we're concerned, she's our daughter for life."
What is Lisa like today? She's a senior in high school who loves to sing and dance with the radio playing. She does well in her Special Education class and she also joins her classmates in regular classes such as PE--her favorite! Lisa loves to run. She earned a gold and a silver medal in Special Olympics. She also loves ceramics and other hands-on creative classes at school. She likes volunteering in the cafeteria. She will graduate from high school in May 2012.
Lisa is an active girl who doesn't like to sit around the house. Kathie encourages lots of stimulation in her environment. Television and Wii video games are rewards and are carefully rationed. "We got her an adult tricycle that provides the stability she needs to be able to ride," said Kathie. "We live in a small town where everyone knows and watches out for Lisa. She completely wore out the axles on her first big tricycle, and we had to replace it recently. Everyone waves and calls out to her as she rides the neighborhood with her babies [dolls] in the basket."
Lisa knows her guardians as Mom and Dad. While he is away fighting fires, Dad [Brian] stays in touch by phone. According to Kathie, Lisa is "daddy's girl." When Brian is home, the family enjoys camping and fishing, horseback riding and a decidedly outdoor lifestyle. Lisa has camped along the Alaska/Canadian highway twice and seen many parts of California and Northern Idaho with her family. She loves riding in the car!
When asked what advice she would give to families considering adoption or guardianship, Kathie replied, "It's not easy, but it sure is worth it. There's a lot of patience and repetition needed, because many things Lisa learns one day won't be remembered the next. But she's a happy spirit. Not only have we helped her, but she has helped us, too. I grew up in foster care, and I used to think I had a rough life. Watching Lisa's physical struggles makes me think I had a pretty good life after all."
Matt Green from Barb Bergeson Studio Gallery
To find out more about adoption or becoming a foster parent, email the Idaho CareLine or call 1-800-926-2588. You may be asked to provide this reference number: 30462.
|Window on the Clearwater
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