My daughter Toni has been in therapy since she was 2 ½ years old. At a very early age, she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and in first grade she started becoming physical both at home and in school. By third grade, Toni became “a 5-alarm fire” for the school, exhibiting defiance and rage and running out of class in a state of hysteria. I was getting emails, phone calls, and letters home. We were in a state of emergency and I wasn’t sure what to do or who to turn to. We were a family in crisis.
Within 12 months, Toni ended up in a partial hospitalization scenario, but at the end of her stay, the social worker said, “I’m sorry. We’re returning her no better than when she came in.” I will never forget that moment. I started to sob. I’m a single mother. What was I going to do? She was the expert! Now what?
That is when I came to Putnam Family and Community Services (PFCS) where the PFCS Family Advocate worked diligently to pull me into the support group at PFCS. She treaded lightly at every step, knowing that I was fragile – ready to break any minute. She was respectful and mindful of our true distress, and offered the support group as a safe place to share and learn.
Toni and I tried it. We began attending and made friends with other families who were like us. I remember the moment that I realized…We were not alone. Toni actually started making friends and she looked forward to group. The staff and caregivers embraced the children for who they were, understand that the “one size fits all” mentality would not work with our children. The adults didn’t fear the fact that the children had high energy, individual quirks, and made noise. They welcomed the children as they were. And the parents knew that their children would not be ostracized or punished; and at PFCS, I knew I wouldn’t be ostracized or accused of being a bad parent.
Three years later, Toni is in a better place. At PFCS, Toni had access to individual and group therapy and a place to interact with her peers while I attend group with my peers. This coordination of services is priceless. And it’s right here in our own backyard in Carmel, New York.