Royce entered foster care after allegations of domestic violence were filed against his maternal great-grandfather who was his primary caregiver. He had lived with his great-grandparents since losing both of his parents. Entering foster care added yet another layer of trauma and hurt to this 11-year-old boy who had already lived through difficult hardships.
Upon entering foster care, Royce was placed at a residential facility until a treatment foster home would become available. His case management team didn’t think his behavior was appropriate for a traditional foster care placement. Royce had extremely challenging behaviors stemming from deep-rooted, unhealed trauma. He acted very disrespectfully, destroyed property, would not stay in school, and had no structure. Additionally, He had diagnoses of ADHD, PTSD, and oppositional defiant disorder. A treatment foster parent, Jill, became available and was able to take Royce in.
Shonetta, 30 Days to Family® Lead Specialist was assigned to Royce’s case in July of 2019. At the beginning of the case, Royce’s great-grandmother was the only identified relative. Although she was a viable placement option, she was in very poor health and could not take care of Royce at the moment.
Shonetta began the intense search for relatives to create Royce’s family tree and quickly realized that family finding was going to be extremely hard for this case. And indeed, it was extremely tough.
Royce came from a large but heavily dysfunctional family. On the maternal side, His great-grandmother had kept him secluded from the rest of the family, so Royce had little to no relationship with them. But Shonetta tried anyway. She interviewed and contacted many relatives. A lot of relatives came forward as willing to take Royce into their home, but for one reason or another could not pass the licensing requirements.
Paternal relatives were even harder to get ahold of. Shonetta found out that Royce had half-siblings that had been through the foster care system and now were placed with paternal relatives. But Royce had not been around his father’s side of the family. His relatives hardly knew him and many were not willing or able to take Royce into their home. Additionally, the family had a long history of involvement with child protective services, making many of them ineligible to care for Royce.
After six months of hard work, Royce’s 30 Days to Family® case was closed without an appropriate relative placement in January of 2020. At this point, Shonetta had identified 222 relatives, but she struck out at every attempt to place Royce in a safe and appropriate home.
Royce remained at Jill’s home. Jill had been a therapeutic foster parent for nearly a decade. Her primary goal for every placement she received was to develop a treatment plan for the child’s specific needs so that they could step down from treatment foster care, and safely go back into their community. All along, this was her goal for Royce as well.
But the future had something different in store for both of their journeys.
Royce didn’t immediately change. He was attending Individual therapy, he was on medication management, and attending a special school district but still had a hard time coping with trauma and continued to display difficult behaviors at school and at home.
What was different this time around is that Jill recognized Royce’s behaviors as trauma responses and she took intentional action to facilitate an environment where he could heal from his pain. Jill received support from the Coalition’s Family Works and Educational Advocacy programs to develop a plan to support Royce. With their help, she created boards with charts for house rules, hygiene checklists, and other reminders to provide Royce with daily structure. She started a household savings account for Royce to teach him financial management and understand needs versus wants. He would get small rewards for chores and would use his household savings to buy extra snacks or things he wanted. Jill also stuck with him through school – she helped keep him stay on track with assignments and attendance, as well as navigate through academic and behavioral challenges.
It wasn’t an easy path. At times, Jill felt like giving up. They went through a number of anger episodes, hospitalizations, and many other challenges but knowing Royce’s family and history, Jill knew she had provided him with the most stability in a long time. So she stuck with him.
Tragedy struck again in Royce’s life when his great-grandmother passed away in late 2020. This was hard for him. Family was so important to Royce and he was yearning to be with them. He had just lost his only viable chance to be with family again.
Jill continued to show unconditional love and support to Royce. He started to show incredible improvement. Royce now would talk to Jill and confide in her when working through difficult emotions. He learned how to cope and no longer let his anger escalate from 0 to 10 instantly. He is also no longer on medication and will be attending regular public schools.
In August of 2021, Royce had another loss in the family – his aunt passed away. Jill encouraged him to go spend some time with his relatives while they grieved. Royce decided to go but quickly realized that he could not make it through one day with them. He had grown to appreciate structure. He couldn’t live in that chaotic environment anymore. He called Jill to come pick him up immediately. He now knew what type of environment was best for him.
After enduring a long journey of loss and grieve, Royce had finally found a space for healing.
At this point Jill knew it in her heart – Royce had nowhere to go and she had to be his family. Jill’s plans changed, and after eight years of only fostering, she decided to adopt Royce.
Thanks to Shonetta’s work through 30 Days to Family®, Royce has knowledge and connection to his biological family, which he values greatly. Shonetta also provided the family with referrals and resources to ensure they remain stable. Family Works and Educational Advocacy continue walking alongside Royce and Jill in their new journey.
They are both very excited about the adoption. In tears, Jill shared with Shonetta how she couldn’t believe how much Royce has learned and changed, and most importantly, how much he has helped Jill grow as a person. Royce has had such a profound effect on Jill, that she cannot imagine not being his forever family.
Royce is now 14 years old and finally has the family he always deserved and wished for.
*Names and pictures have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.