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“Alex’s” Story: From rage and sadness to understanding and belonging.

Up until the age of five, “Alex” lived with his biological mother, who neglected her son while struggling with addiction. He was subjected to living in deplorable and filthy conditions which ultimately led to his removal from the home. He was also traumatized from seeing some fairly intense and scary domestic violence between his mother and boyfriend. His behaviors erupted while he went through a series of foster homes. Alex was fortunate that he finally found a foster family that would stick by him and not give up. His behavior began to stabilize and he was doing better until his foster mother became pregnant. Alex’s behaviors then “went through the roof,” leading to extreme tantrums and very unsafe behavior directed to him as well as towards his foster mother. Emergency hospitalization was next, followed by entry into one of Ryther’s Sub-Acute Residential Treatment cottages.

Despite understanding and being accountable for his actions, Alex struggled to open up. Ryther’s team believed he was ready to start the on-campus Grief and Loss group in addition to his individual therapy so that he could process what had happened to him, grieve the loss of his biological family and realize a sense of closure. Chelsea, his Ryther Case Manager, shares the thought process he underwent: “My [biological] mom is my mom and she’ll always be my mom, but I have a lot of sad memories and I want to let those go and just remember the good things and try to move forward.”

After the 12 weekly sessions and a “graduation” from Grief and Loss group, his foster family could re-enter the picture and be part of the team. His foster family was very committed to Alex and considered him a part of their family. Chelsea shares, “In family therapy, Alex would get upset by a question and run and hide behind the couch. They would continue on and say ‘Alex, please join us whenever you’re ready. We want you to be here. You’re a part of our family.’ Slowly but surely, he moved closer to them both literally and emotionally.”

Alex and his foster family started home visits while he was at Ryther. It was still rocky at the beginning. However, a turning point came after a particularly difficult day when Alex turned to his foster parents and said, “Maybe it’s time I start to call you mom and dad.” Alex is back home with his foster family and is in process of being adopted by his new mom and dad. He has a really bright future ahead of him. Plus, he’s pretty excited to be a big brother.


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