A Friend and A Family

The redemption story of Brooklyn and the family she found through friendship.

Every morning, a boy and a girl would meet up to walk to school together. The little girl made jokes and the little boy laughed. The boy showed off and the girl would one up him. Their friendship blossomed despite the dark secrets the little girl, named Brooklyn, kept hidden at home. And that friendship would prove vital as her world crumbled around her.  

Little Brooklyn had seen more depravity at seven years old than most people ever see in their lives. Her parents argued loudly and often, pitching their home into chaos until Brooklyn would interject herself between them, begging them to stop. She witnessed open drug use and sexual behavior, activities that often kept her awake through the night. But still, she would get up each morning, eager to meet her friend and to feel like a normal child for a while.

Then one morning, Brooklyn woke up to flashing lights and strangers milling about her house. Her father had died of a drug overdose in the garage while she slept. With the loss of her father, Brooklyn’s home only slipped further into mayhem. Traffic through the house increased as more adults brought in more drugs, placing Brooklyn either at the center of the party or alone in her room while mayhem unfolded just outside her door. It wasn’t until her friend from school came to visit that the severity of Brooklyn’s situation came to light.

Colette and Mark stopped by to pick Brooklyn up for a playdate with their grandson. The trio stepped through the door to find the once clean home piled with unwashed dishes, garbage and dirty laundry. There was no food in the fridge. The older couple spoke gently to Brooklyn’s mother, moved with compassion over the woman’s decline since her partner’s death.

Soon after, Colette and Mark began pouring into Brooklyn and her mother, helping them pay rent and donating extra to help with groceries. However, as the months wore on, it became apparent to the couple that the money they and others were giving was not being spent on Brooklyn’s wellbeing.

Following the last of multiple drug busts at the home, Child and Family Services had enough evidence to remove Brooklyn from her mother. The agency contacted her friend’s parents, Mark and Colette’s son and daughter-in-law, to see if they could take Brooklyn. But having just moved out of town and welcomed their third child into the world, the young family’s hands were tied. Heartbroken but determined to do all they could, they called Colette and Mark. Half an hour later, Brooklyn stood on the couple’s doorstep, safe at last.

It had been a long time since Mark and Colette had parented a child, but for the first three months, Brooklyn seemed like the easiest, sweetest child they’d ever met. The couple saw little evidence of the extensive trauma the little girl had endured — until she began to feel safe enough to reveal the wounds within.

Beneath the amenable attitude and eagerness to please, Brooklyn was angry and rightfully so. She’d been hurt over and over by the very people she was supposed to depend on. She’d been left to fend for herself in a household defined by fear and violence. She’d been afraid for so long that her brain couldn’t process the fact that she was finally safe.

Her body, however, caved as quiet replaced the terrifying sounds she’d come to expect in the night. She slept 10 or more hours a night when she entered Mark and Colette’s home, as if trying to make up for years of unrest.

Having fought her own battles and found her own ways of getting her needs met without the help of an adult, Brooklyn struggled to adjust to her new family’s dynamic. She resisted instructions, screamed her disappointment and took her anger out on her own body when the rage threatened to consume her. Mark and Colette had never faced such challenges with their biological children, and after years as empty nesters, they didn’t know what to do for their little daughter.

A year after Brooklyn joined her new family, her parents realized their need for intervention. They’d heard of Child Bridge and now reached out, desperate for help.

“Suddenly, we were learning about how trauma affects the brain, about neurological pathways and all these things we’d never even heard of before, and it all started to make sense,” Colette said. “Child Bridge gave us the education, the training, the tools we needed...they kind of swooped in and saved the day.”

Today, Brooklyn’s life looks drastically different. Mark and Colette, whom she calls Nanna and Papa, have become her permanent guardians and work tirelessly to show her how beautiful life can be. Their message to her is clear: Christ makes all things new, and He always provides.

“In order to come out on the other side, these kids need someone to step up,” Mark said. “We really do have to get up off our chairs and interject ourselves into what we see.”

Though old enough to be her grandparents, Mark and Colette take care to stay active and healthy enough to keep up with their boisterous little girl. God, Colette said, repeatedly provides exactly what they need physically to keep fighting for her. Though she may go to bed exhausted and spent, each morning Colette wakes up feeling refreshed and ready for another day.

“He’s healed me for this child,” Colette said. “We’ll rest when we get to heaven, but right now He’s given us a job to do, and He’s equipping us every day to do it.”

Now 10 years old, Brooklyn radiates joy as she talks about her parents. Their wrinkles, according to Brooklyn, don’t change her conviction that her parents are young on the inside — nor how much she absolutely adores them.

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