Ready to Graduate

March 6, 2017

When Kimberlee was between the ages of 3 and 5, she was sexually abused by a ten-year-old half-sibling. Her mother didn’t believe or support her daughter and was both physically and mentally abusive, herself. Kimberlee’s mother would alternately withhold food from Kimberlee and force her to eat things that were unpalatable. She called her daughter stupid and threw a lamp at her head. She even told 5-year-old Kimberlee “I don’t want you. Leave.”

Over the next 5 years, Kimberlee lived with her father, whose livelihood consisted of selling and using drugs. The money he received from his transactions afforded them an apartment sometimes, while other times he and Kimberlee both lived out of his car. Eventually, when Kimberlee was ten, her father went to prison on possession and distribution charges. Kimberlee was sent to live with family and when that arrangement didn’t work out, Kimberlee was placed into foster care.

Never having dealt with the trauma of the sexual abuse, her mother’s physical and emotional abuse, and now being abandoned after her difficult life with her father, Kimberlee developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. She started ripping out her hair, gouging at her skin and attacking others when she did not feel safe. She was explosive when her trust felt violated, often triggered by interactions with her mother, whose calls and visits to the group home made Kimberlee feel worse, and escalated her behavior. Kimberlee was also a big girl – tall and weighing in at nearly 300 lbs. in adolescence – so she was not only difficult to control emotionally, but also difficult to restrain when she had an outburst. With each outburst, her medication was increased.

Kimberlee was overweight, overmedicated, and had been rotated from placement to placement – living in 16 group and foster homes over 7 years, not including 4 hospitalizations following particularly harmful outbursts. KidsVoice questioned why Kimberlee was on several psychotropic medications to help “keep her calm” when some of these medications had not been approved by the FDA for use by children and had been linked to causing weight-related issues and other problems. The court then took unusual steps and appointed KidsVoice as Kimberlee’s educational and medical decision maker. Her medications were reevaluated and reduced, and KidsVoice made sure that Kimberlee was tested and treated for prediabetes and that she had her eyes checked and received glasses.

Kimberlee was a smart girl but she wasn’t making any effort in school. In fact, the school district was happy if she showed up all, even if she slept in the back of the classroom (as she did most of the days she attended school). KidsVoice advocated for Kimberlee to go to a school that specialized in trauma-informed care. This created a new opportunity for Kimberlee to have a better chance to improve her behavior and learning. With that change in schools and having her teachers and her KidsVoice case team believing in and supporting her, Kimberlee started meeting small goals toward progress in school. Those gains led to a new respect for herself which got her to a point where she cared about her future. She began to love school. Now, Kimberlee gets A’s and B’s and is on track to graduate with her class this year.

She’s also an active and engaged member of her peer group. She’s a member of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, as well as an Intern with a multimedia art. She’s involved with planning for graduation and is excited to go to prom. She’s also become an excellent advocate for herself, using her words to express what she wants help with rather than getting upset that she doesn’t have something and making the decision to stay involved with KidsVoice and other supports so that she has help as she transitions to college.

Kimberlee listened and responded to her KidsVoice case team because they had remained a constant in her life. The KidsVoice Child Advocacy Specialist has been the only consistent service provider throughout Kimberlee’s time in foster care, always fighting for and believing in Kimberlee’s success since day one – and continuously viewing Kimberlee as a child who needs guidance and support rather than a problem who needed to be subdued and restrained.

KidsVoice recognized what an important role trust, stability, and compassion played in getting Kimberlee to care for herself and work with her case team. When Kimberlee’s father left prison, KidsVoice recognized that he might be Kimberlee’s only opportunity to leave group home care and live in a loving home environment. After thoroughly evaluating the situation, KidsVoice convinced the court that Kimberlee’s father – now out of prison, rehabilitated, stable and newly married – should be given a chance to step back in as her primary caregiver, which was what Kimberlee wanted. Kimberlee has been living at home with her dad for the past year and is doing well there. Her father, step mom, and KidsVoice case team will be there to cheer Kimberlee on as she’s handed her diploma in June.