Alyssa couldn’t tell you when she learned what neglect was. It had been happening for as long as she could remember.
She remembers how, as a toddler, she would find herself locked in a closet for hours while her mother forgot about her. She remembers the time that her grandmother got distracted on their car ride to preschool and left Alyssa inside the car for hours. And she hardly saw her father—he forgot to come for almost every visitation he had.
As she grew up, Alyssa became a loner. She never succeeded at much of anything. She didn’t know she was supposed to. She didn’t have any friends.
But finally, one thing started to get someone to pay attention to her: her failing grades. They had been bad throughout elementary school, but in 6th grade she failed all of her classes for the entire year. When her teacher tried to contact her parents, she discovered Alyssa’s unfortunate home situation. That’s when the teacher called Mercy Home.
Alyssa came to us shortly after that, and now the 13-year-old been here for a year and half. Her grades didn’t get better right away. For months, as soon as she started doing her homework, she would begin to cry. She wouldn’t listen to her tutors, and she just looked out the window all day at school without even trying to do her work.
Finally, one day during study time, one of Mercy Home’s coworkers sat down with her. She asked Alyssa why she didn’t want to do her homework. Alyssa responded, “It reminds me that I have to go back to school tomorrow.” When asked if something was going wrong at school, Alyssa answered, “No one talks to me.”
At that point, Alyssa’s therapist at Mercy Home began helping the young teen to socialize. It took her a long time to warm up to anyone. She would spend hours on end in her room, sitting on her bed, looking out her window. She cried because she missed her cats.
But gradually, after a few months of therapy, she began to open up.
She would tell Mercy Home coworkers about things that happened to her at school, timidly at first, then in more detail. She started to ask the other girls if she could join them when they played board games or went outside to shoot a few hoops.
“It’s hard,” Alyssa said. “It’s all stuff I’m not used to.” But once she started talking, her grades picked up, too. She’s passing all of her classes this semester and hoping to get even better marks next year.
“I think I want to be a beautician when I grow up,” she said. “I’ve learned how to braid hair, and it’s peaceful and relaxing. I think I could do it all day.”
Alyssa has also started joining in Mercy Home’s after-school programming, where she has been expanding her interests in art, dance, and music. At school, she has been spending time in Poetry Club.
“Sometimes it’s a lot easier to express myself when I can do it with paint, or with the way I move, or through an instrument like piano,” Alyssa said. “But I also like to write poems, because sometimes I think it’s easier to say what I want to when I don’t have to be so direct about it.”
Children like Alyssa have the opportunity to heal and grow because of generous friends like you who know their struggles and lend them the critical support that allows them to work through those struggles.
Thank you for being a friend to kids like Alyssa.
Because we care deeply about protecting our kids’ privacy, we have changed the names, images, and other identifying details of our children.