Missy, Age 8
Missy* had been through a lot. The toddler had suffered severe neglect at the hands of her mother whose mental illness prevented her from providing adequate housing, food and basic care. While in the park when Missy was two, the neglect became abuse. After losing her temper, Missy’s mom slammed her into the sidewalk causing serious injuries. Missy was placed in foster care. After some time in care, Missy was placed in Austin with her father. Unknown to professionals working with Missy, her father had a history as a sex offender. When Missy was in elementary school, she was finally able to tell the caseworkers enough about her history that she was placed into foster care after allegations of sexual abuse by her father. The forensic interview process was a complicated one. Years of contact with the system made her suspicious and fearful. Although her statements were very general and did not indicate the depth of the abuse, Missy engaged in violent sexual behavior, often ramming objects into her small body. Additionally, the years of abuse and neglect resulted in a serious reactive attachment disorder. She could not connect to other humans. Soon, Missy began the terrible cycle of multiple placement disruptions further exacerbating her attachment issues.
Missy’s difficulties continued. Although her need for a consistent, specific therapy was high, her access to treatment was limited. Providers came to her foster placements only sporadically. Her inability to maintain significant relationships continued. Missy had been in care for sometime; however, she was not able to find a forever family. Although her father’s rights were terminated after several years, his appeals prevented the department from finding a permanent adoptive home.
Missy’s luck began to change however, when she came into Serena Powers' home. Although her therapy providers continued to come sporadically, another child in the Powers home was being seen at the Center. As a last resort, her foster mom Serena asked the Center therapist, Miriam, if she could possibly see Missy as a client as well. Because her case was in the system, accesses to services were immediate. She began receiving treatment consistently and began to show signs of attaching to her current foster family. Later, Missy also became free for adoption. Her foster family, her constant, was allowed to adopt her. Her treatment continued at the Center, another constant to give her comfort and stability.
Finally, Missy decided that she needed a new name to go with her new last name. Missy chose her name for its connection to patron saints and meanings that represented strength and courage; a reflection of her struggle-and her victory-over the abuse and trauma she suffered in her young life.
*names and identifying circumstances have been modified to protect the privacy of families.
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