Evan's Story - Part 2
“It took awhile, but she showed me I could trust her. All my life I was promised things, and they always fell through. Carol turned all of that around for me,” Evan confesses.
Last year, we told you Evan’s story. He is a young man who experienced unspeakable acts of abuse at the hands of his parents. Evan was even rewarded for hurting his brothers and sisters as a child. He often went without food for days. No one could comprehend his daily trauma. It has taken Evan years of therapy and support from the staff at The House to rebuild his sense of self-worth and value. He has made miraculous strides, and his wounds are finally healing. Now he feels that he has control over his future--- and it can be a happy one.
Healing has not been easy for Evan. It took years of therapy and patience from the staff at The House. Early on, Evan would sit in silence during his therapy sessions, holding in all of his trauma. To break the silence, Evan’s therapist would ask him to read aloud. When he read The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, she said, “I knew that I had reached him. He stopped pushing me away and was trying to find out who he was by reading.” Finally, when his parents were arrested, he felt safe. He began to trust and realize that he could transform his life. He started doing better in school; he was unstoppable.
Once Evan’s parents gave up their legal rights, he was set on a path to find a fitting adoptive home. With the help of the Foster Care program at The House, Evan was very fortunate to meet Carol, a wonderful foster parent who took him in and made him feel important. Over the course of the year, Carol and Evan have had the chance to really get to know one another. Although, there have been challenges, Carol has given Evan the stable and loving home he has always wished for, loving him, being there for him unconditionally, and teaching him that he can trust.
Carol made a big promise to Evan that she would make sure he saw his older brothers and grandmother even though he was now living with her. This was incredibly important to him. She followed though every step of the way, showing him that he could trust her. He has also learned not to be afraid to communicate openly, something he once feared. Both Evan and Carol are now ready to take the next step--- a BIG step and formally become a family. They are looking forward to making the adoption official before the end of the year. Who could have thought this new found happiness to have a family for both Evan and Carol could have been possible!
The bottom fell out of my world when I was nine years old. When my mom dropped me off on my godmother’s doorstep I felt like a forgotten puppy. I was terrified. I couldn’t believe she was just leaving me. What did I do? Wasn’t I good enough? How could I be losing everything? I learned later that my mom didn’t want me anymore; I had become too big of a burden in her life. I hated my new life even more than I had hated living with my mom.
When my mom did come around, she would slap me, I remember crying and begging her to stop, but she wouldn’t. In an instant, I knew that I was on my own. There would be no one to care for me. I had to take care of myself -- make my own rules; I liked it that way. It was better than being beaten.
Meanwhile, the violence that I couldn’t stop swirled around me. When my mother visited I watched her and her boyfriend beat each other up; she even stabbed him once! Living with my godmother wasn’t any better. She was always trying to say something to upset; me and once she even threw a cue ball from a pool table at me. I lived in a war zone, and I couldn’t escape.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t keep all the violence I suffered inside. So I began to show the world how angry I was. I was brought to court where they ordered me to go to The House. I had no idea what to expect, but I had assumed it would be the same. Adults who didn’t understand what my life had been…and wouldn’t care if they did. But I was wrong.
The people at The House really cared about me! This was a totally new experience for me, and it took me many months to even believe it. I lived in one of the cottages on campus for a while, it was hard when the other kids got to go home for weekends or breaks in the school year because my godmother refused to have me come back. It was one more reminder that my life was different. I was convinced I would never have a family. But I was wrong this time too.
The staff at The House discussed a foster family with me, but I was done. I had been hurt enough. They kept encouraging me – but didn’t push me. Eventually, I decided I would give it a shot, but I wouldn’t expect much. I becan to spend weekends with a foster family. I couldn’t believe what it was like. No one shouted. No one hit. It was a new world to me. I couldn’t wait to be a part of a family again! They enrolled me in school and I even started playing football! Now, I love sports and I’m good at them too! I thought I would never be able to say that about anything.
After about a year, there was the biggest gift. The House found my mom and discovered that she had turned her life around; she wasn’t doing drugs anymore and she had a job and a house. She had done all of that so I could come home. We started visiting a little. I was very nervous at first. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that people can’t change because my mom did—just for me! After a few months I went home to live with my mom! I can’t believe I am writing those words, that I have my own family back. I have a life like other kids now, and that wouldn’t have happened without The House.
I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I was only six years old and terrified to go to bed each night. Finally, I understood, but I kept the fact that I was sexually abused by my older brother bottled up inside for what seemed like an eternity. I was angry. I was so ashamed. This didn’t happen to other kids. Why was this happening to me? Finally, when I couldn’t get rid of the pain, I tried to get rid of me. When I attempted suicide I knew--- and everyone else knew I needed help. I was fifteen, and I took a bunch of pills to make the pain go away. I woke up in the hospital and was sent to a rehabilitation center right from the hospital. When things didn’t change and I remained depressed, my mom turned to the county to get help. That’s when things started to turn around – when I went to The House.
There they expected me to talk about my problem. How could I? I could barely admit it to myself. My experience was talking about my problems only led to more pain. So I kept to myself, except when I wrote. What I wrote was very dark, but it helped me release some of the awful feelings I had. I was really surprised when I came to The House that they encouraged me to keep writing. Even though they didn’t say they liked what I wrote about, they said they saw potential in my ability and that I was talented. I was shocked. No one had ever complimented me like that.
The staff at The House began working with me and helping me to see that I was good at something, and that made me feel good about myself. Little by little I told them about my past; I explained to them how I felt when my father abandoned me, and how I felt when I was abused by my brother. They helped me to see that I could be something great in spite of all this. I could rise above the anger and hurt, and I could have a new life that I created.
I see worth in myself and my family that I never imagined possible. I was sent home to live with my mom again. We are doing great! I am not angry anymore, and I love to help out. My little brother looks up to me, and I want to be a good role model for him. I still go to therapy and so does my older brother. I learned that he was sexually abused as well. I know that it’s never okay to hurt someone like this, but I’m working on forgiving him. I’m glad that I came to The House. They helped me realize that I can trust, I can be happy, and that my past doesn’t dictate my future. I know I have potential, and I can achieve something. I understand all that because of The House.
I was eleven years old, and this woman was screaming at me down the street, “you’re stupid, worthless, that’s why i gave your ass up.” That was my first interaction with my biological mom. My mind was spinning as I raced home to confront my ‘mom’. That’s when my world fell apart, and my life began to spin out of control.
I learned that this woman who confronted me on the street was the woman who gave birth to me and my brother and sister. They both knew all of this, but had kept it a secret from me. I was born addicted to drugs. We were all taken from her when Social Services came in to find the house in shambles, our clothes dirty and unchanged; and we had apparently been picking through the garbage for food. I don't recall any of this, thankfully.
I was having trouble in school to begin with; I was picked on all the time because I was in Special Education classes, but, once I learned the truth, things got much worse. I was angry all the time, and I couldn't control my feelings. When I made it to school, I got into a lot of fights. I even got in fights with my teachers; I just wanted to be left alone. I knew what people thought about me. I just didn't care anymore.
PINS sent me to The House of the Good Shepherd last year which made me even angrier. I hated it, hated the people and hated being out of my home. I didn't want to do anything, or listen to anyone. It made me feel better to fight so I kept doing just that. I became the person everyone thought I was a bad kid.
Then, during one of my meetings with my therapist, she asked if I might be interested in taking a dance class. I thought it would be better than just staying in my room, so I signed up. What did I have to lose? My first class was Musical Theater. I was scared at first and didn't want to cooperate so much, but the more I participated the more I liked it! I was good at it too! I would practice all the time, and for some reason it helped me feel better; it helped me get my anger out. Something changed in me. I don't know for sure what it was, but I felt different. My first performance was awesome!!! People stood up and clapped, and I was so happy! I knew I did a great job, and then lots of people came up to me after and told me how well I did!!
But, through a lot of therapy and with the help of dance I see that some things are out of my control, like my past but, what I do have control over is the present and the future. I can control my anger. I can be something in life. I am even taking classes for Hotel and Restaurant Management, and one day I want to become a baker. I wish everyone could see me now and see that it is possible to change.
The floor was a trash bin and our clothes rarely washed, we had no running water. You can’t imagine the conditions we lived in; the house was so filthy that I could never invite anyone over. My parents are different. They couldn’t keep up with all 10 of us. Being one of the oldest, I wondered why they kept having more kids. I was so embarrassed and felt so disgusted that this was my family.
My father is in prison now because someone finally found out what was going on in our house. Growing up with things like this, I actually thought it was normal, now I know differently. My father had been molesting all of us since I can remember. At night I could hear his footsteps coming my way, and I would curl up and try to hide in hopes it wouldn't be me tonight. He would creep into my bed, and I was forced to do things to him. Over time our house got out of control. My brothers began doing things to my younger sisters, and it became a vicious circle; I never felt safe in my house. I recall my father telling me that when I was ready to get my period it would be time for me to start having kids too. I was twelve when this happened, and I hid it as best as I could and fought him off as much as possible. I often wonder how my sisters felt, although we never talked about it. I knew they must have been in as much pain as I was. Life was full of ugliness to me. I found a way to stuff my feelings away, far away so that maybe it could be okay to live in my body.
Once my family was found out, things began to happen quickly. I'm actually not sure how it all happened; all of it is just rumors around town. But, one day all ten of us were removed from our house and put in foster care. We were separated and very scared. See even though my life was horrible, it was the only one I knew. When I got to my first foster family, I couldn't help but wonder if this man was going to hurt me too. Every night I would lie in bed afraid he may come in too. Thankfully, that never happened but I didn't feel comfortable for a long time. My new family didn't give up on me though, and the staff at The House kept helping me to cope with what I had been through. It is going to be a long time until I'm okay; but I am safe now, and I see a new life of new possibilities that I couldn't have seen before I left my other life behind.
I had always wondered about the scars all over my body. But it wasn’t until I was older that I finally found that I got all of them in my first year of life. I am now in foster care and live with a great family. Thankfully, I do not remember what happened to me as a child but throughout the years I have uncovered the truth after talking to my foster parents and reading through my files.
My mother used to slap me hard when I did something that was wrong or annoyed her. In one of the pieces of paper that I have, it recalls my father saying that my mom hit me repeatedly because I wouldn't stop crying. Another time, she had been caught by my grandmother shaking me repeatedly because I was crying; my grandmother had warned her to stop, because it was causing my neck to violently swing side-to-side. But she continued to do it. Later that month, she apparently "accidently" dropped me causing me to have a seizure, and I was rushed to the hospital. Even though the doctors said I had a serious blow to the head they found no damage to the brain or skull. The following week I had another "fall", and this time, the doctors found that I had suffered a subdural hemorrhage. I had to have my head drained of the fluid, and they had to shave my hair. It caused a large scar on my head. Apparently, I had bruises all over my head, legs, arms, and stomach and scars on my legs which my mother could not tell how I received them.
Children and Family Services temporarily removed me from my house but were unable to find evidence to prove that my mother had been the cause of these wounds, so I was placed back with them.
My sister was born shortly after this, and she was put in the "at risk" list. A week later, my parents were visited by a couple of Social Workers so that they could see how they were with me and my sister. The results were bad, and I was taken from them. My sister was left with them temporarily, but it wasnít long until she was taken from them as well.
Thankfully, we were both put into Foster Care, and we are both much better off now. Due to my hemorrhages, I suffered brain damage, and it has taken me a lot longer to read and write; and I have occasional seizures. Learning of the details of my abuse has been traumatizing for me but knowing that I have a safe place to live now and that my sister did not have to endure this same abuse make me feel better. I don't know where I would be if it wasnít for The House of the Good Shepherd.
"I never thought I would make it this far..."
Jason is an alum, who contacted us to share his story. He hopes it will motivate children at The House and let them know they can change their lives.
"I first came into HGS in 1995 when I was 12 years old. Almost right after my birthday. I was scared and didn't know what to do. Some of the workers were nice and some were mean. I hated life. I thought all the workers looked at me like I was bad person. I was misbehaving and caused a lot of trouble. I had a case worker who helped me get through my problems. I had child care workers there to help me too. A lot of people were nice to me and I thought that I would never leave that place. I changed my attitude and things went better for me. I realized that the people were there to help me and not hurt me and I started taking their advice on life.
"I left The House at the age of 18 and joined the Job Corps to become a cook. After I left Job Corp I went to my hometown to see if I could work things out with my mom. While that was happening I went back to high school at the age of 19. I went to high school and received my high school diploma. After I graduated I went to be a cook at many places. I took a major turn in Life when I decided that I wanted to join the United Sates Marine Corp. I still am in the Marine Corps at age 25, and everyday I look back from where I came from.
"I never thought I would make it this far. I took the advice from the staff there and kept my head straight because they know best. The only advice that I can give to those young individuals out there is, If you think life is bad, pick your head up and keep going. Nothing can hold you back to succeed. It's all in what you want to do with yourself and the effort you put into it. The workers there are there to help you, not harm you. I understand that sometimes it may feel like it, but it's not."
Who Knows Where I Would Be...
"I was in HGS in 1999. While I was there I gave the staff a very hard time. I was very young, and I did not want to hear with they had to say, but as I got older I realized that they cared about me, and only wanted the best for me. HGS really helped me. I am very thankful to all of the people who worked with me and took the time to care.
I am 21 years old now. I went and got my GED. I meet a man who cares and loves me. And one day I hope soon we will get married. And that's all thanks to you guys. If I was not there I would have been running the streets and who knows where I would be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
An Alum Says Thank You
We recently received the following email from a young lady who was in our care. It demonstrates how The House changed her life.
"Hello, God it has been a long time. I was there at HGS 3 years ago. It’s crazy how long ago I was there. Many stories and memories took place there. Many times of anger and frustration, times of hurt and emotional stress.
I realize that through all of this I gained inner strength and trust to those who want to help. Now thanks to all of the guidance and support, I am getting adopted. I am officially discharged from Randolph Children’s Home and living with my wonderful mom. I want to say thank you to those have helped me out. I greatly appreciate this! I love you all!"
Family Means Everything
Steve is just one child whose life has been changed at The House. Steve, who is now 13 years old, has lived with a foster family since he was 5. He is unable to return home to his parents. “I had a lot of fun going on the field trips and going swimming and going bowling.”
What’s truly remarkable is how Steve has progressed since being at The House.
This summer, Steve attended a summer camp at Utica’s Parkway Recreation Center. For Steve, it will be a summer he will always remember. He made friends, learned new games, and went on exciting and educational trips.
Here’s what Steve had to say about his experience:
Guided by his foster family and our staff, he learned to speak at 6 years old, began to make friends at school, has grown into a polite young man, and, most important, experienced what it means to be part of a nurturing family.
Mark's First Glimpse of Hope
Mark was 10 years old when he was referred to The House of the Good Shepherd last June. His mother was in and out of rehab and gone. He lived with his father. He was afraid to learn and afraid to play. Mark didn’t know the alphabet when he first walked into our Tilton School library. But he would seek out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, open the big book, and just stare at the pages pretending to read. He didn’t want to admit to anyone that he couldn’t read.
Past trauma left Mark with a strong conviction that he would never be good at anything. He struggled to find meaning in the shapes that children half his age recognized. He was frustrated and ashamed. He would throw books and sometimes say that he was just too stupid to learn. It was heartbreaking to watch.
Despite setbacks, Mark would still come to the library everyday and look at the Harry Potter book.
After several months, our staff began to gain Mark’s trust. He didn’t need to let his shame and anger block his learning. Slowly he learned. Our school staff encouraged Mark and gave him books that would support his initial success. Child Care Workers read to Mark. In treatment sessions, our therapists worked to remove the emotional stumbling blocks that were convincing Mark that he would never learn.
The turning point came when Mark went to the library and could read words in the level books for the first time. His teacher said that discovery gave Mark “the first glimpse of hope” that she had seen. He stopped throwing books and started reading them.
Mark’s teacher recalled the day Mark read his first book. Some people might say that Mark learned to read. But anyone who knew him saw that he left his old world behind. Now Mark comes to the library and is eager to read. He wants the librarian to order his favorite book The Pigeon Finds the Hotdog. Imagine just six months ago he couldn’t decipher the alphabet.
Friends of the Children gave Mark the chance to change his life. Friends of the Children gifts provided the books, the student desk, the bed, and the recreational fields so Mark, and many children like him, can reclaim their lives. Without Friends of the Children gifts, children at The House will not have the resources they need.