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It’s Not Just a Rocking Chair

“When I first visited the home, Naomi* couldn’t sit still. She was always moving and very agitated,” said Kimberly Witt, Advocate Supervisor for CASA of McLennan County.

Naomi was removed from her home due to abuse and neglect when she was two and a half years old. For the next year and a half, she went through several different foster families and was kicked out of her school and daycare because of her problems with aggressive and violent behavior. At two and a half years old Naomi had only recently learned to walk and talk. She had barely begun her life but was already experiencing so much difficulty just getting along and making it through each day. What was going wrong? What could be done to help her?

In these early years developing healthy attachment and emotional bonds with parents or caregivers is crucial for normal social and emotional development. Having adults that respond to an infant or child’s needs allows them to develop a sense of security and safety. This creates a base for the child to explore their world and continue to grow and learn. When children experience abuse and neglect, especially at such young ages and early stages of development, they can have difficulty forming attachments and emotional bonds with their caregivers. Naomi isn’t a bad kid. She just didn’t have the tools to cope with what the world had thrown at her.

We don’t always know the reason or how to help, but every child’s behavior is an attempt to meet a need that they have. In Naomi’s case, she might be needing to feel safety and security. Perhaps her acting out was a way to test whether the adults in her life would stay or leave. We can also imagine that there are a lot of feelings going on for a child who has experienced abuse and neglect, and not had a stable home environment so early on in their life. Without healthy attachment and bonding with caregivers, Naomi also didn’t have the tools to deal with and process these feelings.

Thankfully, Naomi’s grandmother, Rose*, was able to bring her into her home at four years old. “It’s been very challenging having them at home. It’s going to take a while. She had tantrums that lasted an hour and a half to two hours, and she would lose her voice. This happened two or three times a day,” Rose explained about the difficulties she has faced providing a home for Naomi.

Rose found that the only thing that would calm Naomi was for her to hold her and rock her. There is research that rocking and swinging stimulate the body’s vestibular system which helps alleviate stress and anxiety and helps with sleep and cognitive functions. Because of her age, Rose found it difficult to rock Naomi for longer periods of time. She explained this to her CASA volunteer and asked if there was any way that CASA could help provide a rocking chair since she was unable to afford one herself.

CASA trains ordinary people to advocate for children in the foster care system and help keep them from falling through the cracks. Part of CASA’s advocacy work is to notice the needs of the families they serve and advocate for ways that those needs can be met. In this case, CASA used funds earmarked for direct needs to purchase a rocking chair for Rose.

“Since that rocking chair came and when I started rocking her, we haven’t had any tantrums in two weeks. I never knew it could make such a difference. She’s healing now and I can talk to her and work with her now,” Rose shared getting emotional about the difference this piece of furniture made for her. “It’s not just a rocking chair. It’s the stuff they never got from their parents. That rocker is huge and opened the door to let her love me.”

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*All names have been changed to protect privacy