Elaine was living on the streets, homeless.
Physically abused by family members and then abandoned, Elaine had lived on the streets, homeless, until she ended up in the child welfare system. Elaine arrived at Jewish Child & Family Services with a full-blown oppositional defiant disorder and an extensive history of multiple failed placements. She routinely displayed poor judgment, engaged in high risk behaviors and frequently had physical altercations with fellow students at school.
At first, Elaine struggled with her foster care parents. She showed very little respect for others, sought negative attention through mean and bullying behavior and became argumentative and verbally aggressive when she did not get her way. Her preferred method for dealing with conflict with anyone was to become angry, hostile or defensive—all of which made it next to impossible for her to create relationships, repair herself emotionally and begin to concentrate on getting an education.
With the commitment, patience and help of her foster care parents and the skilled and caring professionals at Jewish Child & Family Services, Elaine began to understand why what may have been a survival skill while she was living on the streets would only harm her chances at turning her life around now that she was off them. Slowly, she started to get it.
Elaine worked with a counselor to set and achieve goals to address her hostility, distrust and defiance of authority and she made significant progress. She learned to identify what triggered her anger, to come up with less adversarial ways to interact with others, including her foster parents, and to communicate more calmly with them. Eventually these new behaviors carried over into her relationships with her classmates and teachers at school. Her grades improved and in May of 2014, graduated from high school.
Proof of Elaine’s newly developed ability to reach out and engage in positive ways with others came in her involvement in several extracurricular activities, including speech therapy, a dance group and Business Professionals of America -- which required she participate in community service. Today, Elaine lives on her own and remains in close contact with her foster parents. She is currently continuing her education at Chicago State University.