A few weeks ago I had a former parent offer to write a blog post for us. This parent had two children at CALO and feels strongly about what we do. I accepted and wanted to post what she wrote without edit. Here it is:
A little more than two years ago, we were told to consider residential treatment for our older daughter, third of our four children. First we thought "how can it be right to send an adopted child away”, and then we thought “maybe we’ll all feel a little better for a while.” An on-line search found us CALO and we were given phone numbers for CALO alumni families so that we could ask about the school. My family owes these families great thanks. It was the first time in so long that we could see there was real hope, that these people to whom we were speaking, in Arizona, in Alaska, in California, did not think we were terrible parents when we spoke of the chaos at home, our inability to help our child, our sadness about all of it, and our shame, because we did feel that. What we heard on these calls was that there was hope for our daughter, that they could help her at CALO, and that there was hope for our family, and I still remember what that felt like. These parents shared about their CALO experience with generosity and honesty.
Now, two years later, and with two teens having graduated from CALO, Peter and I have hope too, like those parents before us. Our daughters are works in progress, with the strength, the power, the love, the self awareness and the healing and acceptance that they found here. Sometimes they slide back into old ways of feeling and being, and that will probably continue. We’ve been told that the nature of the seeds that are sown at CALO is that for some children, they sprout soon and for others, it can take more time.That said, most of the movement in our daughters’ lives now is forward, toward healthy connections with other people, and the futures of their choice. Those paths are not what we, their parents envisioned any more; each child’s way has its own integrity and we have to learn to go with that instead of old expectations.
What is also true is that my husband and I are likewise works in progress, and we are different now from the people who first showed up here with our child in June of 2009. We have more backbone than we did before. We know the only people we can fix is ourselves. We know our daughters will make it, and it’s ok not to know what that looks like right now. We learned to look underneath behavior to understand it better, not to make provocative behavior about us all the time, and while we still forget sometimes and slide back into old ways as well, we do better than before. We learned about our part in what happened before CALO, and we did have one. So even though as parents we were not in residence, we considered ourselves and our family in treatment along with our girls. They would be different when they came home; we had to be different too. What happened along the way is that we saw that our daughters were our teachers, with CALO acting as interpeter, guide, coach, and wise friend. CALO is a container that holds a lot of pain and great healing, and not just for the children. It’s there for parents too.