Ashley thinks of her life in two stages: before and after. Her early childhood falls into the “before” period – a time of intense fear and anxiety, when her biological mother was struggling with untreated chronic mental illness and substance abuse, and Ashley was severely neglected. Ashley was hit by a car on two separate occasions as a toddler while she was wandering around her family’s apartment complex unsupervised. The second accident required Ashley to be airlifted to a hospital, and resulted in her removal from her parents’ care at age three.
Ashley’s memories of the following years are vague. She remembers being placed in multiple foster homes and having to move every few months, often without any warning. By the time Ashley reached the first grade, she was showing signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Her deeply-rooted fear of rejection caused her to lash out at her caretakers and peers in order to drive them away before they could have the opportunity to reject her. Ashley’s behaviors grew increasingly destructive. After an incident where she broke a window in one of her foster homes, she was placed in a residential facility as a seven year old.
Ashley says that she gave up hope of ever having a permanent family during the year she lived in the group home with a half dozen other abused and neglected children. She struggled with her identity as a youth in the foster care system, and often lay awake at night in her bunk bed, consumed with worry and unable to sleep. Ashley suffered from recurring nightmares where she was trapped in the path of an oncoming car and couldn’t escape.
A carefree childhood seemed hopelessly out of reach for this shy, inquisitive little girl until she joined a Seneca foster family in Antioch. When she met Carol and Jim Moore, the first adults she could trust completely, Ashley finally felt like her long ordeal as an unloved, unwanted child was behind her. Ashley was thrilled to be part of a family. She loved having her own room and being able to decorate it with her favorite colors, blue and green. Carol helped her pick out a brand new bedspread and personalize her room. In time, she began to grow more and more outgoing. She developed an exceptionally strong bond with her Seneca support counselor, who visited her each week to help her develop better social skills. Ashley’s foster parents recognized her artistic side and encouraged her to express her creativity by taking her to a nearby ceramic studio. She joined the choir at her school, formed meaningful friendships with her classmates, and was described by her fifth grade teacher as “bright, charming, and full of personality.”
After a year with the Moore’s, Ashley had achieved almost all of the goals in her treatment plan. Everyone who knew her agreed; she had blossomed and become a whole new child. When her county child welfare worker raised the possibility of adoption, Carol and Jim were overjoyed, and so was Ashley. She eagerly changed her last name to Moore, and proudly displayed a sign with her new name on her desk at school.
The Seneca team lent their full support and helped to facilitate the adoption. A party was thrown at the Moore’s home, and all of the Seneca staff members who had worked with Ashley joined the family to celebrate. Once Ashley was adopted by the couple she had come to know and love as her mother and father, she knew that she finally belonged to a family. The promising part of her life had begun!