Beautiful, blonde Caden, the little boy with the ear-to-ear grin, enthusiastically entered second grade last fall eager to learn. He has come a long way since his mom, Tara, was called away from work to find then-Kindergartner Caden being restrained on the floor in the principal’s office.
"The office looked like a disaster area. He had completely destroyed it," she recalls. "But you really couldn’t blame him. He simply had no control over it. He felt I had rejected him and he acted out."
Tara speaks freely about her past drug use and frequent separations from her young son. She was only 15 the first time she tried meth and the addiction progressively worsened until she was eventually disappearing for months at a time. Then she met Caden’s dad and they did drugs together.
By the time she found out she was expecting, she was well into her pregnancy, but made a conscious effort to get sober. It lasted until a month after Caden was born in 2006. Eventually, Caden’s paternal grandmother, Debbie, took guardianship of the then-toddler for nearly two years.
Kicked out of daycare
But Debbie struggled. Caden, not yet two, was kicked out of several daycares due to his volatile behavior. At a time when attachment and trust is so critical to learning, he was being disrupted again and again. That’s when Debbie discovered Child Saving Institute’s KidSquad.
KidSquad offers a holistic approach to addressing behavioral problems so young children aren’t disrupted from their childcare environments. It involves Child Saving Institute therapists working with psychologists, school counselors, teachers, and caregivers to ensure there is consistency and follow-through at all levels. With everyone on the same page, the program focuses on teaching social and emotional skills so the children can decrease challenging behaviors and learn to manage their emotions in healthy ways. The program is free to eligible licensed child care homes and centers in Douglas and Sarpy Counties that accept Title XX.
KidSquad Therapist Amanda Schraut soon realized Caden could be best served in Child Saving Institute’s Early Childhood Education program. "Oh, the poor CSI people," Debbie says drily. "He was like a tornado at the beginning, but it began to get better. We definitely witnessed the care and concern, and the wonderful feeling of support CSI gave our family."
Although Caden did enroll in Kindergarten when he turned five, he struggled with behavioral issues and was suspended. He repeated Kindergarten the following year, and is now on track in second grade. He continues to meet with Amanda twice a month. Tara is also headed in the right direction, achieving five years of sobriety in June. And Debbie, who first turned to CSI to help her family heal, now gives back to the agency by serving as a volunteer on the CSI Guild Board. "I hate to even think about what would have happened without Child Saving Institute," she says.Eight months later, Tara went into rehab, followed by a residential 12-step program. When she had been sober for a year, she began seeing Caden during supervised visits and eventually they were reunited. In the meantime, Debbie had been attending family therapy with Caden and Amanda. Later Tara joined the therapy sessions in an effort to rebuild her relationship with her son.
"Because of CSI, we are all doing so much better now," Tara concludes.