The girls at the Spring Garden Group Home have experienced almost unimaginable trauma in their young lives. Most have been the victims of sexual abuse; many have also suffered physical or emotional neglect.How does Spring Garden empower these young women who face so many challenges?
Staff simply meet them where they are. They acknowledge that their experiences are part of their history, but reassure them that their past will not dictate their future. “We teach them how to face adversity and how to overcome it,” says counselor Tiana Wood. “We want them to be the best version of themselves.”
It’s never an easy process. Take the example of 14-year-old Anna. Unable to find stability in her mother’s house, Anna had cycled through custody with several different family members, but they couldn’t handle her physical aggression. No foster family was willing to take a chance on her. And Anna, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, had begun sending pictures of herself to older men online and engaging in inappropriate conversations with them.
Her transition to residential treatment at Elk Hill Spring Garden was a challenging one. Because of her past behavior, she wasn’t allowed to have a phone, a consequence she saw as terribly unfair. She resorted to manipulating the staff and her peers to try to get the things she wanted.
Through it all, Spring Garden’s staff believed she could change, and she did. Anna learned to take responsibility for her actions. She learned to accept the word “No.” She learned to forge respectful relationships with other girls. She maintained straight As in school. She diligently saved her money — and once she proved she was able to handle it responsibly, she was allowed once again to have a phone.
Most importantly, through joint family therapy, Anna and her mother repaired their bond. In January 2018, relying on her newfound coping skills to manage family conflicts, Anna was able to return home.