Services & Programs > Our Children's Stories
Our Children's Stories
Over 19,000 children benefit annually from East Bay Agency for Children. Here are just a few of their inspiring and compelling stories.
Natalia’s mother, a victim of domestic abuse, tried unsuccessfully to end her pregnancy through alcohol abuse. Little Natalie was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and as a result, had substantial behavioral and emotional challenges. Natalia’s mother enrolled her in two separate Head Start preschool centers which were both ill-equipped to help Natalia. Finally, Natalie was enrolled at East Bay Agency for Children’s Therapeutic Nursery School where she could receive the professional counseling and treatment she needed.
At first, Natalia was entirely socially withdrawn and sadly would not communicate at all with the other children or teachers. She would spend her time sitting in a corner of the classroom simply staring at the floor. She chose not to participate in any activity though her teachers and therapist continually and gently invited her to join the fun. Finally, after a month, Natalia began replying 'no' to anything said to her, which was actually a very positive sign. She was now at least responding! Slowly, over time, she began building trust in her teachers and therapist and began taking part in some activities.
Natalia’s therapist always drove her home on Friday afternoons so that she could meet with Natalia’s mother, who was severely and chronically ill. Knowing family stability was critical for Natalie’s continued progress, Natalie’s therapist also worked tirelessly with the child’s mother to build up her social supports and create a more stable life for the family.
Remarkably, after about a year at East Bay Agency for Children’s Therapeutic Nursery School, Natalia was communicating at a nearly age-appropriate level and had even made two good friends at school! She engaged eagerly in play therapy and showed an interest in writing and counting. Natalia’s progress allowed her to transition into a mainstream classroom – the goal for each child at the Therapeutic Nursery School. Still receiving counseling twice a week. Natalie continues to improve, demonstrating that with the proper professional support services, children from even the most difficult circumstances can overcome their challenges and have bright futures.
Six-year-old Xavier, a first grade student in Oakland, was referred to an EBAC psychotherapist by his teacher because his aggressive and unmanageable behavior interfered with his school performance. His single mother, who had two other young children and had left her abusive husband three years earlier, was very loving, the therapist found, but completely overwhelmed by trying to build a new life for her family.
The EBAC psychotherapist in Xavier’s school worked with him individually, using play therapy to help him process some of the trauma he had experienced. At the same time, the therapist provided ongoing support to Xavier’s mother, encouraging her to seek help from her family and explaining how her parenting could be adjusted to address Xavier’s special needs. The therapist also worked with Xavier’s teacher and other school staff to help them understand what might trigger his aggression, and to develop strategies to help him be less disruptive and more engaged in the classroom.
As a result of this focused attention, Xavier significantly reduced his aggressive behavior in school and began to make friends with other children. His class work also improved. Without EBAC, Xavier—and his mother—might never have received the help they so urgently needed.
Aaron’s greatest dream was simply to attend a mainstream public high school with his neighborhood friends. However, the extreme trauma he had experienced at a very early age prevented him from functioning in a mainstream classroom. He just didn’t have the skills to cope. So Aaron attended an alternative school, starting in kindergarten, but even there he was withdrawn and struggled to stay awake in his special education classes. At last, Aaron enrolled at one of East Bay Agency for Children’s day treatment programs, held in a special classroom at Hayward’s Conley-Caraballo High School. Aaron was finally on his way toward realizing his dream.
Now on a public high school campus, Aaron worked hard to reach his goal of entering what he called “normal” classes. He was fortunate to have his parents actively involved and supporting him all the way. Working intensively with East Bay Agency for Children therapists and teachers, Aaron was soon accepted into two mainstream classes, physical education and geometry. He was a very eager student in these classes, quick to raise his hand if he did not understand a concept. He worked so hard that soon he was attending these classes by himself, without the supervision of program staff!
When his first year in the Conley-Caraballo Day Treatment Program ended, Aaron was able to successfully advocate for himself about the growth he had made. He said he was ready to transfer full-time to what he called the “real high school.” East Bay Agency for Children team of therapists and teachers listened and agreed it was time for Aaron to “graduate” and be in school with his neighborhood friends, at last.
At only 16 years of age, Keisha had already experienced a lifetime of stress caused by her father's incarceration, living in poverty, and her mother's substance abuse. And then her mother died in her sleep. The night before, Keisha and her mother had had a major argument during which Keisha’s mother screamed at her to, “Get out of my face. Don’t bother me.” Keisha had an especially hard time at school the next day, worrying about her mother’s anger. After school, Keisha discovered her mother still in bed, dead. Keisha and her siblings were sent to live with various relatives because there was no father in the home. What followed next for Keisha were constant truancy, acting out, and finally a conviction in juvenile court.
Keisha was eventually arrested for shoplifting. Fortunately, the judge referred her to East Bay Agency for Children’s Probation Mental Health Program, where she would receive professional counseling and other critical support services she needed to stay in school and out of trouble with the law. After a meeting in court with EBAC program director Jill Reed, Keisha was released with an ankle bracelet to monitor her school attendance.
But before Keisha and Jill could begin working together, Keisha was arrested again on a probation violation for truancy. She stayed in juvenile hall for the next three months and, to Keisha’s surprise, Jill visited her every week without fail. Keisha’s life experience had already made her distant and untrusting, so she kept asking Jill why she continued to come. Jill told her, “We started this together, and I’m going be here for you.”
It was not, however, to be a smooth process. After leaving juvenile hall, Keisha still kept missing classes, so Jill started arranging appointments to meet her at school. Often when they met, Keisha was facing some new difficulty such as gang-related activity or the loss of someone she knew to violence. To help Keisha take control of her life, Jill decided to write her a long letter listing all her absences and problems at school. She showed Keisha the list and asked her how she thought continuing this kind of behavior was going to affect her future.
The letter triggered a positive breakthrough. Keisha took the letter to a school administrator because she found some errors her teachers made in recording absences. She had attended more days of school than the school records showed, and she wanted every day she attended to be counted. The errors were corrected. Keisha got her first important lesson in the benefits of self advocacy and her self-esteem began to improve as a result.
With this breakthrough, Jill referred Keisha to an EBAC clinician who still meets her at school for their weekly appointments. They have built a strong, trusting relationship that continues today. Keisha is now calmer, attends school regularly, and is getting along better with her teachers, her peers, and her relatives. Keisha’s progress, despite her tumultuous situation, demonstrates the importance of both building on one’s inner strengths and the commitment by someone, in this case an EBAC staff member, to “keep showing up.”
Twelve years after arriving from Guatemala, Lucia still struggled with her very limited English skills, found it hard to meet the needs of her third grade child and her toddler, and consequently felt increasingly isolated in her Fruitvale District home. Fortunately for Lucia and her family, a staff member at Oakland’s World Academy, her daughter’s school, connected her to the vital community services at East Bay Agency for Children’s Hawthorne Family Resource Center.
Initially, Lucia began addressing her isolation by volunteering at the Eagle’s Nest after school program, part of the Hawthorne Family Resource Center which is housed on the World Academy campus. There she learned about two additional East Bay Agency for Children programs that would help her overcome her challenges: the early childhood program, which provides parent-child enrichment activities along with parenting skills and English language instruction; and the Parent Center, which provides information and referrals for employment, housing, food, clothing, transportation, and interpretation and translation services.
Today, Lucia and her older daughter are thriving at Eagle’s Nest and the younger daughter is benefiting from the enrichment provided through the early childhood program. Lucia also feels that East Bay Agency for Children’s services have improved her parenting skills and her English. In a short period of time, this once-isolated mother has forged strong personal connections and developed important parenting skills through the many community resources available at the Hawthorne Family Resource Center.
Sydney was at a bookstore with her mom when she wandered away to look at books in the children’s section. A man approached her from behind and grabbed her, telling her to be quiet and do what he said. Instead, Sydney shouted the “safety yell” she learned at a CAP workshop at her school, which drew the attention of her mother and others in the store. The man let her go and ran out, but Sydney did such a good job in describing the man that police caught him.
When she was in fourth grade, Sarah attended a CAP workshop where she learned that it is not okay to keep secrets about your body that could put you in danger. After the class, she approached a CAP staff member and told her that she was being sexually abused. The staff member reported this to the proper authorities, and the abuse stopped.
Timmy, who attended a CAP workshop in preschool, was lured behind a school building when he was in kindergarten by a group of fifth grade boys whose intention was to molest him. Timmy shouted the CAP safety yell he had learned, and got the attention of a school employee who arrived in time to prevent the abuse.
Jody was shy, angry and quiet when she attended EBAC’s Circle of Care grief counseling program. She was 13 years old and had recently experienced the suicide of her mother after a long struggle with depression. Jody and her dad were not very close, so she didn’t confide the depth of her feelings to him.
The first time Jody came to Circle of Care’s Living with Sudden Loss group, she participated in the opening circle and introduced herself, but was not interested in activities. Instead, she preferred to draw in her sketch book. One of the volunteer facilitators asked if she could sit with her, and Jody nodded silently. The facilitator pulled out some paper and markers and began to draw and doodle. Eventually Jody got curious and started asking questions about the facilitator’s drawing.
The next session, Jody again participated in opening circle, and made sure to sit where she could see the facilitator. She again stayed relatively quiet, but did begin to connect with one of the other children when the activity included an art project. By the third session, Jody began chatting and proudly shared her artwork. The other children clearly liked her.
At the fourth session, Jody arrived early, asked about "the boys" to make sure they were coming, and at the end of the night's art project, she joined her father and excitedly told him all about what she did, wanting to connect with him and make him proud of her. Clearly, healing was beginning.
We believe that if we build strong children, there will be fewer adults to mend.
"EBAC provides a safety net for the students who are most at risk of failure, catching kids who typically fall through the cracks. EBAC is very good at addressing whatever is distressing them and looking at how those stressors affect their ability to succeed in school." Barbara McClung
Program Manager, Integrated Student Support Services