Ellie’s Story

Gary WolskyBy Gary Wolsky, President/CEO
The Village Family Service Center

I’m passing on the true and accurate story about a young girl who, for reasons of confidentiality, we’ll call Ellie. Please take a moment to read about Ellie’s incredible journey through challenges that are difficult for most of us to comprehend.

Ellie is a beautiful, talented, smart, and kind young woman. When you meet her, you’d never guess the mountains she and her family have climbed to get her to such a happy place. Ellie’s is a story of family love and triumph that The Village is honored to be a small part of.

Ellie lived in an overseas orphanage until she was 11. She was then adopted by a wonderful family that went into the adoption with their eyes wide open. The first couple of years Ellie was here were great, and her mother said Ellie could be the “poster child” for older child adoption.

Then Ellie started to crumble. Ellie’s pain was so deep she couldn’t see the bottom. She’d done pretty well stuffing it, but now that she was a teenager, the images and memories from her childhood were starting to overflow, and she was terrified. She went from being on the honor roll to failing her classes. She started lying, running away, and cutting herself. When she became severely depressed and suicidal, Ellie was hospitalized. During her hospital stay, Ellie’s parents learned about The Village and set up an appointment for Ellie to see Amber, a Village therapist who specializes in the areas of adoption, trauma, and reactive attachment disorder.

It took a while for Ellie to open up to Amber, but when she did it became very apparent just how much she had been through in her short life. And, as often happens with severe trauma and reactive attachment disorder, things got worse before they got better. She was hospitalized again. Her mom continued to meet with Amber, and together they worked to build for the time when Ellie would come home and they’d hopefully be able to move on as a family.

When Ellie did come home, she and Amber went back to work. Through Amber’s specialized work using interventions like Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, experiential therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), they began to make progress. Ellie began to see herself and her potential the same way everyone around her did. A year ago, Ellie wouldn’t speak to Amber and now she asks to see her. Amber has helped her work through the pain and to step out of her past and into her present. She has also taught Ellie’s mom and dad how to parent Ellie in a way that works…for her and for them.

Ellie also works with Nora, a Village therapist who comes to the family’s home twice a week to help with the day-to-day issues of family living and school stressors.

Ellie was in pain, angry, and afraid to feel the love of her family. As she continues to work through the memories and the pain, she feels her family’s love and isn’t terrified that love will hurt her.

I share Ellie’s story for two reasons—first to display the dedication, training, and passion represented by our therapists, Amber and Nora. Ellie now has an opportunity for a healthy, productive, and happy life that simply would not exist without The Village’s intervention. Amber and Nora are only two of over 260 Village staff, and I’m proud to publicly display their good work.

The second reason I share this is to thank the many people and communities who support the work of The Village. Kids like Ellie have been given a chance for a better life through The Village since 1891. And we couldn’t do that, now or anytime in the last 122 years, without the support of individuals and corporations throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

Thousands of people contribute regularly to make stories like Ellie’s possible—and to all of you, I say thank you. Thank you for the confidence in our work your support represents. Our good work will continue because of you.

The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of The Village Family Service Center CEO. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, staff, or boards of directors.

Filed Under: Opinion

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