The Beauty: Watching a Child Heal from Trauma

We sat in the courtroom while the judge, caseworkers, and attorneys debated what to do with this girl. They listed all the things that had taken place to get us here. She was now in a group home that wasn’t working out; it was her 4th placement in 2 years. My heart broke and my mind filled with questions about how we could do this. Could we take her in? I looked at my husband and we both knew we had to say yes. We had to listen to God telling us she was supposed to be with us.

I won’t share all the details of her life because that’s her story to tell. But I will tell you things got worse before they got better.  Within a couple of weeks of being with us, she asked to be admitted to the hospital. We spent countless hours in therapy and at doctors’ offices to make sure she got what she needed. During this time, I researched all I could about trauma.

These are the things I am learning about trauma:

It will always be there. It never goes away. There was a time I thought if you went to enough therapy appointments and gave it enough time it could be forgotten. Our brains are made to retain memories and not lose them. Some days she wakes up ready to take on the world and others she wakes up in the grip of her past. Every day is a new day and each day is different. She is learning to live with it. She is learning to rise above it.

We must keep showing up. Growing up, I was blessed to have a family that showed up to all my events and constantly told me how much they loved me. I took it for granted. Our girl has lacked consistency in her life. We must keep telling her that she belongs here and we love her unconditionally.

In a few short weeks, she will be graduating from high school. She will be the first out of her biological family. The odds were stacked against her on so many sides. High school students in foster care have the highest dropout rates of all Arizona students, at 18 percent, and a graduation rate of 33 percent—less than half the state average (78 percent).

When she first came, school was not a priority for her. She didn’t enjoy going and was unmotivated. If you’d told me when we sat in the courtroom a few years ago that we’d be here, I’m not sure I would have believed you. She has worked so incredibly hard to bring her grades up, summer school, advocating for herself, and anything else she can do to make her dreams of becoming a cosmetologist happen.

The other day she turned to me in the car and said, “Mom, I have no idea where I would be without you and Dad.” I responded, “Daughter, I have no idea where I would be without you.” You see, that is the thing. She is my biggest hero. The world has not always been kind to her. She has to overcome so much every day; she’s dealt with things that I never have. There is never a doubt in my mind that God has a plan for her life and we are forever grateful to be part of it.

Ally Nyberg

Foster mom

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