CCHO Stories – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

CCHO Stories

Trusting in a better plan

As we begin our 50th year of helping people experience their worth in Christ, let’s celebrate God’s transformational work in the life of one young boy over the course of one year and 22 days at CCHO.

Caden* came to CCHO from a foster home when his increasingly defiant and aggressive behaviors were making it evident that he needed more help for challenges that stemmed from physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Additionally, Caden witnessed violence between his mother and her partner. He also saw his mother buy and use drugs.

When Caden first arrived on campus a little over a year ago, just before Christmas, he was defiant, struggled to trust adults and was unable to develop friendships. He had frequent nightmares and flashbacks. And yet, because he immediately felt safe and loved, Caden adjusted to life here pretty quickly, even with the timing of the holidays.

Over the next eight months, he worked hard to complete his individualized treatment plan and achieve his goals. He effectively engaged in both individual and group therapies. He enjoyed recreational activities and also responded well to art and equine therapy. Caden demonstrated a significant decrease in physical and verbal aggression, opposition toward adults and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. His ability to concentrate and focus substantially increased. He was ready for the next step of his journey but there would be obstacles in his path.

For the majority of Caden’s time with us, the plan was for him to be reunited with his biological mother who drove every other week from out-of-state to visit him. We were making steps for his discharge to take place when his county discontinued the reunification plan. Caden was devastated. A letter was sent to his county noting his readiness for discharge and a foster family was identified for him. Steps were made for the transition to this family, but the placement fell through just three days before his scheduled departure.

This was another loss for Caden, and he was faced with feelings of rejection and abandonment all over again. After a couple weeks of processing this loss, Caden came to the staff and said that he was going to be okay because he realized God must have a better family in store for him.

During this time of waiting, Caden’s biological mother gave birth to his baby sister. He was really upset about not being able to meet her. As Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went, he began feeling more and more hopeless. He was devastated at the thought of spending a second Christmas here. He desired to have a home and be part of a family.

Toward the beginning of December, his county identified another foster home for him. After the second visit with this family, Caden came back thrilled that his potential foster father told him he would officially be his foster dad. To top it all off, the foster family has an infant, which helped fill the void Caden was experiencing from not being with his baby sister.

We invite you to pray for Caden and his new foster family as they adjust to becoming a family of four. Please pray that he feels safe and secure in his new home and has peace with being separated from his biological mom and baby sister. If he isn’t able to return to his mother, we hope that he is adopted, finding his forever family. We also hope that Caden uses the skills he learned at CCHO in his new placement and continues to grow closer to God.

Faith played a big role in Caden’s healing story. He enjoyed reading his Action Bible and listening to Christian music on his mp3 player, using the music as a coping skill. He was always excited when it was his prayer day, and he often included all of his peers and staff in his prayers. Because of your generosity, CCHO was a safe place for Caden to receive treatment and learn about his worth in Christ. Your giving allowed Caden to experience love and support in healthy ways. Thank you for making this #OneHeartOnTheRise transformation possible.

Jessie Berry is the therapist for Cottage 6 where our young boys live. She has served on staff since June 2015 helping children overcome past trauma.

*name changed to protect his identity

This story first appeared in our Winter 2019 All Things quarterly newsletter.

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Stand out and shine bright this Christmas

Each Christmas, we are reminded that the boys and girls in our residential treatment program are just that: boys and girls. They have experienced traumas and atrocities that most people will never have to endure. They’ve been wounded, deeply. They can lash out at the people around them because they lack the ability to process their often volatile emotions, much less control them.

But they are still children. And, like other kids their age, most of them still get excited for Christmas.

This year, we wanted to share a beautiful Christmas message from Natalie*, a resident in our teen girls cottage. Natalie came to CCHO in the summer of 2017 with a heartbreaking history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Growing up, she heard hurtful messages like, “I wish you weren’t around” and “I wish you were never born.” Because of that, Natalie still struggles with her feelings toward the family members who betrayed her.

Since arriving on campus, Natalie has begun to understand that the messages she heard as a young girl were lies. Instead, she has heard the truth: that she was created for a reason, that she is loved and accepted unconditionally, that God has a purpose for her life.

This Christmas, we celebrate our Heavenly Father, who came down and took on our humanity simply because He loved us. We also celebrate a Creator who made us each unique, who blessed us with our own special giftings and abilities. As Natalie wrote in her message, “God made everyone different.”

As we witness the ways God has slowly and delicately worked on healing Natalie’s heart these past 18 months, we are excited to see how she “stands out and shines bright.” And we pray her hopeful message is a blessing to you this Christmas.

*Natalie’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Provide safety & care for hurting kids this Christmas

A gift of $80 this Christmas will provide one night of safety and care for a child in need. What a gift you can give!

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Wishing for home this Christmas

She doesn’t have a home. Not really. For most of her life, Mia bounced between two different beds in two different states, staying with her mom and dad until the drugs and alcohol got out of hand and her parents beat her again, and then she’d move back in with Grandma and Grandpa. The last time she stayed with her parents, though, Mia was raped by a teenage boy. She was five.

Mia moved back to her grandparents’ care for good after that, but then the problems in school started – having a hard time concentrating, fighting with other students, getting in trouble with teachers. Mia was even hospitalized more than once for suicidal tendencies. Without any hope that things would get better, ending it all seemed like the only way to stop the pain.

Unable to provide Mia the specialized help she needed, her grandparents placed her in a nearby residential facility. The bouncing continued . . .

For a child like Mia, Christmas is always the hardest time to not have a home. “How many gifts will be under the tree when I wake up?” “Will Santa know where I’m staying this year?” “Does anyone love me enough to give me something for Christmas?” And even those few times that she was with her parents at Christmas, Mia never felt safe. It was just another day when she hoped she wouldn’t get hit again.

Children like Mia, who have been abused and neglected by the people they should be able to trust most in life, have such a hard time moving past the trauma they have experienced. For Mia, her horrific experiences resulted in PTSD. She’s talked often about killing herself.

But you can make a difference in Mia’s life right now. Every $80 you give helps provide Mia with the treatment she needs so she can finally have a peaceful and joyous Christmas. And a long, full life after that.

As Christians, we find our greatest joy and fulfillment in our relationship with Jesus. For many of us, Christmas is the time of year when we feel closest to Jesus as we celebrate His birth and thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Son down to save us and give us new life. For Mia and so many kids like her, they have never heard the true Good News of Christmas. You can change that.

With your gift of $80, Mia can have a safe place to call home this Christmas. She can know what it feels like to be loved and accepted unconditionally, despite what’s happened to her. Your donation gives Mia and other abused and neglected children a chance to learn about Jesus for the first time in a safe and loving environment this Christmas!

Mia loves doing cartwheels and crafting and playing with stuffed animals and dancing. But she also hates being alone, and certain songs bring back memories of the worst times of her young life. She sometimes still gets angry. Mia has a long way to go.

Your support ensures that Mia and the other hurting kids have everything they need to overcome the extreme abuse and unspeakable neglect they have experienced. Your gift of one, or even three nights of safety is the first step towards healing. What a gift you can give!

Provide safety & care for hurting kids this Christmas

Will you consider an $80 gift so that Mia and other girls and boys like her can experience a night of safety and begin to experience their worth in Christ?

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More than a drawing

Drawing. Painting. Writing. Singing. Creating. Making.

The kids in our residential program bring a host of challenges with them when they first step foot on our Wooster campus. But they equally bring unique talents and passions that we hope will shine even brighter as they continue on their healing journey. Many of them utilize creative expression as an outlet for all they have seen, heard or experienced in their young lives.

Here’s a photo of a chalk drawing created by one of our talented teen residents.

Creativity is a beautiful part of humanity, and creative outlets, regardless of our ability, are important for all of us, but especially for individuals who have experienced trauma. Art is a way for children and adults alike to communicate feelings, to tell a story or to break from the present moment. Art therapy, a newer addition to traditional therapeutic approaches, gives hurting individuals a voice when they don’t yet have words.

According to the Art Therapy Credentials Board, “art therapy uses art media, the creative process and the resulting artwork as a therapeutic and healing process. Clients—young, old and in-between—are able to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. Art therapists are trained in both art and therapy. The process isn’t an art lesson—it is grounded in the knowledge of human development, psychological theories and counseling techniques.”

Leah Mendez, residential art therapist at CCHO, says, “Art becomes a tool for me to find out where a child is at relationally and emotionally in a non-threatening way. Their artwork expresses pain, hope and other emotions about previous and current circumstances. It starts a dialogue about their needs and wishes for the future which we work through together.”

Leah utilizes the art therapy approach as part of intensive trauma therapy with our residential clients. Her research “Measuring Efficacy of Intensive Trauma Therapy Through an Attachment Potential Art Therapy Assessment” was recently recognized by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) where she received the Gladys Agell Award for Excellence in Research at the 2018 annual conference.

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One heart on the rise

We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Cottage 1 recently celebrated #OneHeartOnTheRise. One of our teen boys successfully completed his program and was reunified with his biological family. What a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas for this family! Please join us in praise and prayer for his continued growth and transition from our residential program.

Once high school sweethearts, a series of bad choices led to a marriage falling apart. The difficulties of this loss sadly led to additional poor choices made by both parents and children. One sibling faired the storm and one sibling arrived at CCHO for additional support for his anger and behavioral challenges. That’s when this family’s healing journey began.

Shaun* settled into his program here on our Wooster campus and found several positive leisure activities to enjoy and help him make better choices. He also began family counseling with his mom. She drove several hours each way multiple times a week to visit and participate in these sessions. Even when Shaun was not very nice to her, she continued to attend counseling and be supportive and open to feedback. Together with a clinician, they were able to identify and work through emotional concerns while learning effective communication skills.

As a celebratory session at the end of treatment, the clinical team joined Shaun and his family on an escape room activity. This gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his problem-solving, communication and anger-management skills with his family in real time. Upon reentry to school, the principal noted, “He’s a brand new kid!” as he could see the positive changes in self-confidence and communication displayed in Shaun.

Our clinical team also worked with Shaun’s family to create a parenting plan and a family schedule to help them succeed in their reunification. We are truly excited to be a part of this family’s growth! Our social work approach wraps around the entire family with relentless commitment and kindness to help them experience their worth in Christ and find healing as a family unit.

Thank you for celebrating this #OneHeartOnTheRise with us. And thank you for your financial support and advocacy. You are helping to make safety and healing a reality for children and families like this.

*name changed to protect his identity

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Thankful for life change, thankful for you

As we enter this week of giving thanks, we are joyfully grateful for the many children and adults who have received hope and healing this past year throughout our family of ministries. God is indeed good and gracious to those who are hurting. Though they have experienced much hardship, they are not forgotten. We are blessed to be part of God’s amazing work of lives being changed. We are thankful to you, our donors and supporters, for helping vulnerable kids and families through your time and resources. Your partnership provides each of these precious individuals with safety and treatment as well as the opportunity to experience their worth in Christ. Here is just one example of life change because of your generosity.

A Children’s Residential Center (CRC) is often a very misunderstood place. Some people think it’s a glorified detention facility. Some see it as a 24/7 daycare for aggressive children. Still others see it as an untrustworthy place where kids in pain must remain on guard and work tirelessly to protect themselves from even more pain. The latter was certainly the perception held by a 14-year-old young man when he was referred to our CRC here at CCHO.

At the time, Joe (name changed to protect his identity) had been living with his grandparents, but they felt they couldn’t handle their grandson anymore. They had come to the end of their rope and so had Joe. Upon his arrival on campus, Joe seemed like a respectable young man with some socially awkward tendencies, but overall didn’t appear aggressive or defiant. Unfortunately, that changed in the days that followed, with Joe exhibiting a vast range of what most would consider to be odd, attention-seeking and defiant behaviors.

Soon after, we discovered the root of the issues presented: Joe had witnessed his father shoot and kill himself when Joe was 4 years old. His mother then began physically abusing him because she didn’t know how to process his father’s suicide. He was left feeling powerless and without any control, a young boy full of guilt and self-blame who sadly became the scapegoat of the family. After Joe was removed from his mother’s care, his grandparents tried for years to help, to care and to love, but it only led to more anger and frustration, which caused him further hurt.

Joe wanted healing but, because of his misconceptions about residential facilities, he was unsure if he could find it at CCHO. He had been led to believe that CCHO was unsafe and, therefore, his behaviors continued for a few months until, one day, he decided to hand over to the staff a pocket knife that he had been hiding for his protection. He decided that he didn’t need it anymore, that he felt safe with the staff at CCHO. For maybe the first time in his life, Joe finally felt safe.

In the weeks and months that followed, he began connecting with the staff and many of his behaviors disappeared while the others decreased significantly. Through regular counseling, Joe began to process the trauma that he had been through and started to change his perspective on life, a process that led to freedom from his confining feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. He no longer blamed himself for his father’s death. He began engaging in social activities without fear. He began to show his true self by caring for other people and the animals on campus. Most importantly, he began attending church services, gave his life to Jesus and was baptized through our campus ministry and began to faithfully seek God.

Only one thing stood in the way for Joe, and that was his past. Because Joe had hurt his grandparents so deeply, they had difficulty trusting him. After multiple conversations about how he had changed for the better, they still didn’t feel safe enough to bring Joe home. Fortunately, God was on the move. Joe’s grandmother agreed to attend family therapy in hopes of addressing some of the hurts that she had both experienced and caused, and after his initial hesitancy, Joe’s grandfather participated as well. Joe responded by demonstrating resiliency and taking full responsibility for all he had done to his grandparents. He didn’t blame them for their reluctance to bring him home; instead, he apologized for the past. Despite his own pain, he acknowledged the pain he had caused others. His grandparents, finally allowing themselves to believe that healing had come, offered Joe forgiveness and even apologized for their own past mistakes.

What once seemed like an impossibility became reality when Joe reunified with his grandparents after nearly nine months of treatment at CCHO, a powerful illustration of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:26: “With God, all things are possible.”

You may be asking yourself the same question that Joe’s grandparents had: “Can healing from hurt that deep really come in nine months?” With Jesus, it can. For Joe, it did. And for many children with a similar story, it has, it does, and it will continue.

CCHO’s CRC was Joe’s safe place where he could find healing, discover hope and experience his worth in Christ. In his last week at CCHO, Joe tearfully expressed his gratitude for the help CCHO provided, and he attributed his life change to giving everything to Jesus and following Him.

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When braiding leads to bonding

God often moves in profound and powerful ways to demonstrate His love to people in pain and crisis. These are the exhilarating stories that capture our imaginations, stories that inspire books, songs and movies. But sometimes, rather than doing the seemingly impossible, He chooses to move in simpler and subtler ways. As a supporter of our ministry, your generosity continues to be used by God to accomplish His plan for kids like Karlee* on our campus.

Karlee’s birth parents had been running a meth lab out of her home when she was placed into the residential program at Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). A victim of severe neglect and physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Karlee carried the debilitating effects of her trauma into her very first day on campus, when she threatened to stab a CCHO staff member with a pair of scissors shortly after arriving.

It was clear from the beginning that Karlee was mad at everyone – her parents, the county workers who sent her to CCHO, and the staff who were now trying to help her. However, she was maybe angriest at God for not protecting her from the pain and abuse she had endured. Her parents’ choices had not only deeply wounded Karlee, they had also forced her to care for her younger siblings, ensuring they got off to school each day and had food to eat, which robbed her of the chance to lead a typical teenager’s life. Once her grandmother died, Karlee lost what little sense of stability she’d had, and from the moment she arrived at CCHO, she made a point of rebelling against any and all authority.

Karlee’s behavior was a product of her extensive trauma, and she was desperately trying to protect herself from more pain. At night, she curled up into a ball in the corner of her room because she was afraid her dad would find her. We were soon reminded that even the simplest act of kindness can bring down the tallest walls around an anguished heart.

Karlee clashed early and often with Alisha, a CCHO treatment specialist who worked to establish accountability in Karlee’s life in her first couple of weeks on campus. “She never had authority. She never had anyone telling her what to do,” Alisha says. “So of course it would make her angry when someone is trying to parent her….”

When leaving work one day, Alisha discovered that Karlee had used gravel to form a vulgar message on the trunk of her car. Rather than getting mad, Alisha chose to demonstrate God’s grace and love for Karlee. “So many of the kids are used to getting in trouble, getting beat when they do something wrong,” she says. “When they see the staff forgive them, that makes an impact. We can tell them about God all day long and they won’t care, but when we show them the love of God, that’s what makes the difference.”

About a month later, Karlee watched Alisha braiding yarn into a lanyard and asked if she could teach her how to do it. Alisha quickly demonstrated the method to Karlee, not thinking much of the interaction. The next day, however, she found a handwritten note from Karlee:

“Thank you for teaching me how to braid. I really appreciate it. That impacted me in a way you probably wouldn’t understand. My dad knew how to (braid) also, but every time I’d ask him to teach me, he would say, ‘NOT RIGHT NOW.’ After (I asked) a few more times, he got his (belt) out and beat me with it. So, THANK YOU!”

At the bottom, she taped a small green and yellow braid to the page and wrote, “I’d like you to have the first one I made.”

Karlee still has a long way to go in her treatment, but Alisha says she has made incredible progress as she opens up in therapy about her trauma. The walls are beginning to come down, she treats staff and fellow residents with kindness, and her heart grows softer and softer each day as she learns more about who she is in the eyes of her loving God.

The healing process is different for everyone, but it’s almost always messy. The children on our campus require patience as they work through their trauma, and they often take one step back after two encouraging steps forward. Your continued support of the work being done at CCHO and our family of ministries makes stories like Karlee’s possible. Without donors like you, Karlee and other traumatized children like her may never experience grace and forgiveness or hear that they are loved unconditionally by the God who created them.

Support CCHO this fall

Will you consider showing the love and generosity of God by making a gift so even more boys and girls can learn just how precious they are in their Father’s eyes?

*name changed to protect identity

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