Counseling turns lives around

Many of the dollars you contribute to United Way are focused on programs that help our families deal with the stress and strain of raising children in these complex and difficult times.  One of those programs, Family Counseling operated by Family Services and Children’s Aid, provides counseling services for families who need help with emotional and behavioral issues that may threaten to destroy individual lives and families.  Here’s one of their stories about “Angela”.

“Angela” has gone through more difficulties by the age of 15 than many of us experience in a lifetime – a drug addicted mother who abused and neglected her, foster care and adoption at the age of eight, uncontrollable panic attacks and hysteria, and a sometimes-abusive boyfriend.  She would run away from home, and was verbally abusive to her adopted mom “Sherry”, as well as to her adopted brothers and sisters.

Sherry was at her wit’s end.  The family could not stand up to this disruptive and damaging behavior.  She brought Angela to Family Counseling with the desperate hope Angela could be helped, and brought back into their family.

At the start of counseling, Angela was always getting into fights with her younger sister. Her counselor worked with her to resolve these conflicts, and also met with Sherry to help her learn some skills that would work for Angela, a child who had been so badly neglected in the past.  Within weeks, Angela proudly reported that she was not letting her sister “get to her”.  And Sherry noted how much more time she and Angela now had to do fun things together.  This one change helped the whole family feel more at peace.

Angela also received psychiatric support, including prescription medications that helped control the angry outbursts and panic attacks. Angela quickly saw positive benefits. She was more willing to cooperate with her mother, and her attitude and behavior improved.  Sherry helped her find a job, and Angela’s self-confidence and self-esteem continued to rise.

As Angela’s mood and self-confidence improved, her counseling turned to the subject of her sometimes-abusive boyfriend.  Her counselor shared and discussed written information about teen dating violence. In subsequent sessions Angela referred to this information and used the terms it provided as she began to set new boundaries with the boyfriend. With a mixture of sadness and relief, Angela eventually decided to end that relationship.

In what is clearly a hard fought, but marvelous turnaround, Sherry recently informed the family counselor that Angela received a year-end award from her high school.  Also, Angela has secured a summer job in the career area she hopes to pursue after she graduates.

Thanks to your donations to United Way, and with continued support from her family and Family Counseling, Angela is well on her way to making positive choices for her self and her family.

Mentoring builds relationships and changes lives

Many of the dollars you contribute to United Way are focused on programs that help our youth develop into caring, productive adults.  One of those programs, Children of Promise Excel operated by Big Brothers Big Sisters, provides concerned, adult mentors for children whose mother or father is in prison, and need someone to share their concerns and interests.  Here’s one their stories about “Marvin”.

“Marvin” is a smart, active young 13 year old.  However, he struggles in school.  He’s been suspended several times because of truancy and disruptive behavior.  Unfortunately, Marvin has also had many interactions with the police and juvenile justice system.  Recently, he’s been referred for foster care.  If nothing changes in Marvin’s life, it seems likely that he’ll be joining his father in prison.

“Tony” is a retired teacher and technology specialist.  He and his wife own a small farm and have a very active life with eight adult children and thirty grandchildren.  Tony came to Big Brothers Big Sisters with the conviction he had something to offer a young man who might need a change of scenery and little direction.

Marvin was matched with his Big Brother Tony this last May.  During their visits to the farm, Marvin can often be found driving the grandchildren around in the tractor.  He really enjoys being outdoors, working with wood and helping with the many building projects.  Marvin is especially proud of the wooden toys they make for Tony’s grandchildren.  He and Tony have dozens projects around the farm that they work on and share.

Since being matched, Tony reports a significant change in Marvin’s attitude and behavior.  He no longer tries to clown and disrupt, and treats Tony and his family with respect and courtesy.  When Tony invited Marvin’s older brother out to the farm for a visit, and his brother tried to convince Marvin to join him in some mischief, Marvin stood up to his brother and said, “We don’t do that here.”  Tony was pleased that in such a short time, Marvin was able to stand up for himself.

Thanks to your donations to United Way, Marvin is optimistic about his future.  He has found something valuable and worthwhile in his relationship with Tony, and is taking the first steps to a better, more successful life.

Protecting our most vulnerable builds new lives

Many of the dollars you contribute to United Way are focused on programs that help our adult friends and neighbors recover from the setbacks that can drastically alter our lives.  One of those programs, Legal Services, operated by Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan, provides full legal representation for individuals in need in the areas of domestic violence, prevention of homelessness and obtaining or maintaining public benefits, especially disability or medical benefits.  Here’s how Legal Services helped “Carl”.

It was the worst day in “Carl’s” already too difficult life.  Just 51 years old, Carl had been struggling with the effects of chemotherapy and brain cancer for the past year and a half.  He could no longer work, and was dependant on his wife “Louise” for her insurance coverage to pay for the expensive medical treatments.  When she told him she was filing for divorce after 25 years of marriage, Carl was crushed.

Carl would lose everything. Although it had been a lengthy marriage, Louise did not feel that she owed Carl any part of the property or any spousal support.  Under both federal and Michigan law, once they were divorced, Carl would no longer be able to get coverage under his ex-wife’s medical insurance unless he paid for it at an exorbitant rate under COBRA coverage.  Since Carl did not have any income of his own, this was simply not an option.

Carl’s sister contacted Legal Services for help.  They quickly determined that Carl was too weak physically and emotionally withstand a trial – his wife was extremely emotionally abusive and was actually contributing to his poor condition.  They moved quickly to get Carl out of the abusive situation by getting him disability benefits from Social Security, and then moving him out of their home into subsidized housing.  They next worked with Medicaid and the

Community Medication Assistance Plan to cover the cost of his chemotherapy and prescriptions.

Carl’s troubles certainly aren’t over.  But thanks to Legal Services and their dedicated staff, Carl is now has his own place to live, an income that meets his needs, his prescription needs filled, and is in the middle of his second round of chemotherapy.

Thanks to your donations to United Way, despite the obvious difficulties in his life, Carl is happy and doing well for the first time in years.