From the very beginning, Christina was dealt an unfair hand in life – she was born into an unstable home riddled with drugs and abuse. For the first few years of Christina’s young life, she was exposed to regular drug use and domestic violence. Soon, she became the target of the abuse. By the age of five, Christina was being physically and sexually abused by her mom’s boyfriend.
Finally, child services stepped in and removed Christina from the home – early enough to keep Christina alive, but too late to avoid severe trauma. Christina’s mom was given the opportunity to continue seeing Christina if she left her abusive boyfriend, but she didn’t – essentially she chose her boyfriend over Christina, something impossible for a young child to understand.
After being removed from her home, Christina lived in a shelter for two weeks before transitioning into foster care where she lived for two years. Christina was finally adopted by two loving parents. Unfortunately, at the tender age of seven, Christina was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder – a result of being abandoned by her mother and changing homes so often as a young child.
Christina struggled to build a relationship with her adoptive parents because she couldn’t separate what had happened in her biological home from her new home. In essence, she saw the faces of her abusers in the faces of her new adoptive parents. Consequently, she became hostile and aggressive towards her adoptive parents, and even began making false allegations against them.
As Christina neared her teenage years, things just got worse – she succumbed to negative peer pressure and started having sexual relationships with older boys as she continued to abuse and disrespect her adoptive parents. At just 12 years old, Christina was out of control and her adoptive parents had run out of options.
Fortunately they found Excelsior. With the help of a therapist and Canine Healers (trauma-focused canine-assisted therapy), Christina processed through her trauma and learned to separate fact from fiction. Through intensive family therapy, Christina and her adoptive parents were able to build a strong, healthy relationship. Additionally, Christina learned many coping skills to help her deal with lingering PTSD symptoms, like flashbacks of her abuse. Now a strong and confident young lady, Christina is living happily with her adoptive parents and has made it her mission to surround herself with positive people. She understands all too well how bad things could have become, and tells us that she is grateful for her parents and for Excelsior for never giving up on her.
Unfortunately, Christina’s story is not the first of its kind. But for over 42 years, thanks to the generosity and compassion of community members like you, Excelsior has been helping youth like Christina find the strength and courage to recover from tragedy and thrive.
This #GivingTuesday, please support youth like Christina by scheduling your donation for Colorado Gives Day. Your support on Colorado Gives Day helps Excelsior continue to provide hope and healing to youth and families that need it most. You can preschedule your donation here: www.coloradogives.org/excelsioryc