Jeremiah* yells a lot.
He deserves to.
Jeremiah came to us with a history of horrendous, unspeakable trauma at the hands of his biological parents. He was too little to do anything to protect himself except cry and yell. Sometimes that worked a little when his abusers got worried that “someone would hear.” When he got a little older he could flail some, but yelling had become his go-to coping skill.
He was removed from his biological home and lived in multiple foster homes. As the severity of the damage the trauma had done to his psychiatric and mental health became more and more evident, he was in and out of hospitals and other placements. All that happened before he was 9 years old.
When Jeremiah came to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, Steven Ralph was asked to be his “primary. ” The “primary” is the Residential Treatment Specialist who works to create a trusting relationship that provides a gateway to effective therapy, education, and overall treatment. Steven has been at the Ranch for almost six years and is great with the kids. As a former college athlete, he knows about patience and goal setting and communication. And, did I mention, he is great with the kids.
When Jeremiah had been with us a while, I was included in a treatment note email Steven shared with the rest of his team about caring for Jeremiah… particularly in response to his yelling. Steven wrote, “When Jeremiah starts to get upset and begins yelling, just stop talking and wait for him to finish. If you are in his doorway and he begins to yell and scream at you, walk away and sit down in one of the chairs. He will most likely follow you and then ask ‘Why are you ignoring me?’ Explain to him that you are not ignoring him but tell him, 'When you stop yelling then we will resume the conversation.' It's okay for there to be long pauses and awkward silence, it gives him time to think and process because he will most likely interrupt you once you start talking. Let him know that he will be able to talk without any interruptions, and that when he is done you are going to talk without interruptions. Make him feel heard and that his perspective on things is important.”
That is Trauma-Informed Care in action. Steven knows Jeremiah's yelling isn’t directed at him, and that, for Jeremiah, it has served a purpose. He is showing Jeremiah it isn’t necessary anymore and that he really will be heard. He is giving Jeremiah the gifts of safety, consistency, and a chance to trust.
Jeremiah has a long road ahead, but with good folks like Steven, and the support and prayers of friends like you, he can find success.
Please keep our kids and staff in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
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