Helping Ava Find Her Smile

Over eight years, Ava, her mom and four siblings were in and out of SafeHaven shelters five times, and as Ava grew older, SafeHaven staff noticed her personality becoming more and more aggressive each time they met with her. 

Ava, now 11-years-old, and her siblings had witnessed severe violence and threats against their mother’s life at home. The last time her family came to the shelter, Ava’s mom had an open Child Protective Services case, and CPS was clear with her about having no more incidents that required their attention.

During that time, Ava’s mom began receiving calls from school that she was acting out, and she was starting fights with other kids in the shelter.  Ava was protective of her family and wanted them to stay together. She would shush her siblings when they attempted to share their problems in support groups in fear of CPS removing her from her family.

Ava was stuck, torn by a child’s love for her mother and the manipulation by her father. When Ava arrived at the shelter she was withdrawn but shared the desire to work on controlling her aggression. The staff went to work building trust with Ava and praising her when she was able to control her anger. Through play therapy and extra one-on-one time, they were able to create genuine relationships with her and slowly began breaking down the barriers she put up.

The last time Ava and her family left the shelter, she was beginning to smile and allow others into her personal space. She even gave hugs on her way out the door! On average, 70 kids, many just like Ava, seek refuge in SafeHaven shelters each and every day, and it’s critical that they are able to experience the same positive and lasting impact that she underwent during her time at Sa­­feHaven. Ava still has anger issues to work through, but with the help of SafeHaven, she has come a long way.