Mary Kay Carney

I am an advanced practice nurse and have worked for YCS since 2001.

I have been invited to speak to you today because my partner, Diane, and I made the commitment to a lifetime of caring for two YCS children, Ricky and Angela.

Ricky came to us when he was 6 years old, but he was so tiny. He was the size of a 4 year old. He was shy fearful, with enormous eyes that pulled at your heart. Angela came to us when she was 15. Beautiful and fiercely independent, she ran away from her previous family for weeks at a time, but still attended school every day. There are so many blessings our children have brought into our lives.

Like many of the children at YCS, my children have experienced a lot of trauma. They both have had what is called a “failed adoption”.

Ricky was placed for adoption twice between the ages of 3 and 6, and both times he was given back to the Division because he was too aggressive. When my son came to my family, he was out of control and often tantrumed until he was too exhausted to go on. He was afraid of everything and slept only 4 hours per night.

His first day of school was the day after he was placed with us. At the end of the school day, I waited on the playground with the other parents, but Ricky never came out. A teacher came out and asked me to come inside. Ricky was in the hallway crying, refusing to leave because he was so afraid that no one would be outside waiting for him.

Parenting Ricky was the hardest think I had ever done. Before the adoption, on a day when we were exhausted from a tantrum that felt endless, Diane said, “We don’t have to do this.” I told her that we did have to do this, for two reasons. If we gave him back to the Division, it would wreck him. He would never trust anyone again and would struggle his entire life. The other reason- I could never look a parent in the face again and say, “This is hard, but you can do it.” How could I say that if I couldn’t do it. I would have to find a new career.

Angela was adopted from Serbia when she was six years old and her adoptive parents voluntarily gave up rights to her when she was 15. When she came to our family, she was also afraid of many things, and even at the age of 15, sometimes needed me to sit by her bedside until she fell asleep. She was a high school freshman failing every subject and constantly suspended or in detention.

Their healing was gradual, sometimes imperceptible and the end result was not seen by all of the amazing professionals that worked with them. Their therapists, teachers and doctors, all saw just a bit of the progress.

But I can tell you that every interaction nudged my children forward. Every time they were treated with respect, their potential recognized, their spirits honored, a bit of healing took place. Interactions with kind and patient adults helped to decrease their anxiety. There was no magic in their healing. It came from living in a world that was consistent, loving and safe and from thousands of tiny therapeutic moments.

Today, they seem like different children. When Ricky moved in with us, he could not tolerate music. We couldn’t play music in the car and I certainly could not sing. Today, he sings and dances his way down to breakfast, has x-box friends around the world and wants to travel the world to meet them in person. He is a kind, sweet and funny boy who always brings his soccer ball to school so that he can start a game with his friends at recess.

Angela has never attempted to run away since she has come into our family. She is a much better student now, made state finals in varsity track and works part time at a pizzeria. She is so proud of her most recent accomplishment. She is now a licensed driver. She has many friends, her two BFFs are always at her side and she has a strong connection to her new family.

The truth is that any interaction with a child can nudge them closer to healing or push them back into their pain. Doing a craft together, sharing a joke, admiring their art, shooting baskets together- these are all powerful therapies. Allowing a child to cry, listening to their fears and sitting with them in silence are also therapy.

I am here to bear witness to the potential for healing in my children and for all of the children that YCS works with. There is no trauma that a lifetime of care – consistent, patient, loving care, cannot heal. Thank You