This story is from Bethany Barnes, a therapist at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital in Kansas City, KS. In this role, she helps children and adolescents experience healing through compassionate psychiatric treatment. This story was a winner in our annual KVC Story Contest.
Noah is a boy who has faced many heartbreaking difficulties in his young life. He has autism, a developmental disability that made it difficult for him to interact with others. His mother also has intellectual and developmental disabilities that made it more challenging for her to meet his needs.
Noah’s parents separated when he was about three years old. Noah, his mother, and his older brother moved out of state and his mother chose to break off contact with their father.
By the time Noah was 11, he had moved states several times and was living in a home with his mother and her boyfriend. In the home, he experienced neglect and other types of childhood adversity. Due to both his severe autism and not getting the support he needed, Noah was incontinent and repeatedly needed to be reminded to go to the bathroom. This meant that, at the age of 11, he needed to wear diapers. He also struggled with a fear of using the shower and did not know how to maintain proper hygiene. As a result of domestic violence he had witnessed, he was physically aggressive toward women. He also had a difficult time eating around other youth and would pick up their food or eat food out of the trash. On top of these things, he had limited verbal skills and would often make unusual noises to himself as a way of seeking stimulus.
Finding Noah Stabilization and Treatment
For his own safety and wellbeing, the state removed Noah from his home and brought him into foster care. He was assigned a KVC Kansas case manager to coordinate his care. His needs were so great that he was brought to KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital, a children’s psychiatric hospital in Kansas City, KS, for stabilization and treatment. During this time, KVC had two important goals for Noah – get him the compassionate psychiatric treatment he urgently needed and find the best permanent home for him.
The KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital team sprang into action to help Noah. The admissions nurse reviewed his medication list and noted his special needs. Noah and his case manager met with a psychiatrist, pediatrician, nutritionist, and me, his therapist. He was also supported by direct care staff who helped him navigate a typical day of treatment, therapy, education, brain-building activities in the hospital’s Resilience Center learning lab, meals and recreation.
Reconnecting a Family
In the meantime, the team at KVC Kansas worked on determining the best permanent home for Noah. His mother was not visiting him at the hospital and did not show that she was able to meet his needs. Through creative internet sleuthing on the part of Shane Hiat, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Specialist at KVC Kansas, I was able to connect with Noah’s father, Rob, who he had not seen in 8 years. Rob lived in Ohio and was thrilled to have the opportunity to have Noah in his life. In fact, since losing contact with Noah, he had struggled with a sense of loss in his life and was receiving treatment for depression.
With the aid of video calls multiple times a week, Noah and his father reconnected. Before the calls began, Rob tearfully asked me if Noah had ever started talking because, the last time he saw him, he still had not spoken due to his autism. After a few months of video calls, Rob saw his son not only laugh and smile but also heard his voice for the first time.
On the Road to Hope and Healing
Rob drove more than a thousand miles – thirteen hours one way – to be with Noah. While Noah was shy at first, he began to open up more and more and was so happy to be reunited with his father. At first, we sent a team member with Rob and Noah when they left the hospital and went out into the community, and eventually, they were able to go out to eat and do fun activities on their own.
After several days of visiting and learning, Noah and his father were ready to return home together. This was a decision that both KVC Kansas and the courts supported. They then drove the 13 hours to go home. While Noah and his father will likely encounter challenges from time to time, they have a local support team to help them thrive. And most importantly, they now have each other to share a sense of love, belonging and hope for the future.
About KVC Kansas
KVC Kansas is a nonprofit organization that serves 30,000 Kansas children and adults each year. We provide prevention services, family reunification services, foster care, adoption, in-home and outpatient therapy, and more. Through our sister organization KVC Hospitals, we help children and adults facing depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use and other mental health crises. Learn more about how you can help children like Noah by becoming a Kansas foster parent, donating online or exploring KVC careers.