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From Despair to Hope: Justin’s Journey

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Turning one child's dangerous path into a promising future often takes a combined collaborative effort. And supporting that new direction means involving the whole family, not just the child. For Justin, the transformation involved IYR's Ranch Campus program, family counseling services, and reintegration services, along with his school and his family's church.

Fourteen-year-old Justin was raised by his mother and grandmother. He had no relationship with his father, who left when Justin was an infant. Experiencing behavior issues early in life, Justin was diagnosed with ADHD and spent years on medication and in treatment. By the time Justin was a teenager, he had become obese, depressed, and angry. He refused to go to school and was beginning to cause trouble in the community. He used his size to intimidate his mother and grandmother and thwarted their efforts to hold him accountable for his behavior. In a downward spiral, Justin was failing in school and feeling suicidal.

When Justin arrived at the Ranch Campus, he felt little hope for the future or for repairing his relationship with his mom and grandmother. But gradually that tide began to turn. He opened up while caring for his 4-H animal and did great at equine therapy, and these successes help him learn empathy and self-confidence. He began transferring what he learned from working with animals to building new relationships with people.

Through counseling, Justin started taking responsibility for his behavior and learned to control it by practicing his new skills instead of relying on medication. He lost nearly 100 pounds, adding to his newfound self-esteem and positivity. His attitude toward school turned around completely and he thrived in the Ranch’s on-site school, earning A’s and B’s in his classes for the first time.

To help reinforce and build on Justin’s progress, IYR’s Family Counseling worked with him, his mother, and his grandmother to improve family communication and smooth the way for a successful return home. The IYR counselor met regularly with Justin’s family to help them learn how to set limits, structure, and consequences for Justin.

An IYR reintegration specialist also played a key role in Justin’s transition out of care and back into the community; working with his school to prepare for his return and finding an adult man through the family’s church to be a mentor and role model for Justin.

After spending a year at the Ranch Campus, Justin returned home a completely different person. When talking about her experience, Justin’s mother got tearful as she showed us a recent photo of a much healthier and happier Justin, pointing out that his genuine smile in the picture was the first smile she had seen from him in many years. That smile beams from the frame. It’s a clear testimonial to Justin’s transformation from a teenager in despair to a young man filled with hope and purpose.

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