Sixteen-year-old Mitch was charming but antisocial, a kid with no friends and no respect for the rules. The funny thing was, Mitch was bad at being bad. He constantly got caught, because he wasn’t used to anyone paying attention to him.
After his mother died when he was five years old, Mitch had been sent to live with his father and stepmother. In their house he was physically and verbally abused, and he reacted by lashing out. At the age of 11 he was placed in a secure mental health facility.
In the years that followed, he bounced between foster care, juvenile detention, and locked facilities — 17 placements in all. Nothing made a difference. By age 14, Mitch was struggling with anxiety and depression, as well as using and selling drugs.
Elk Hill was stop #18. It was Mitch’s last chance to turn things around… but he refused to try. One day Shawn Freeman, Head of Harambee School, had had enough. “It’s obvious that you’ve made the decision to do wrong things,” Freeman told Mitch. “Do this for me: Be better at not getting caught.”
Mitch looked at Freeman with disbelief. Then he did as he was told: He worked harder to conceal his misbehavior. For the first time in his life, Mitch experienced praise instead of punishment. He was given small rewards. He got to join group outings.
He stopped faking and began following the rules. At first, he just wanted to keep his new freedom. Then, Freeman says, “he didn’t want to let us down.”
As Mitch began to thrive at Elk Hill, his heart still longed for a family. One day, he discovered his mother’s obituary online and, to his amazement, learned that he had grandparents in Virginia. He found a phone number and called them. “My name is Mitch,” he said. “I think I’m your grandson.”
Mitch’s grandparents were overjoyed to reconnect with the boy they thought they had lost. He began visiting them on weekends. He found out he had aunts, uncles, and cousins too.
With substance abuse counseling plus individual and group therapy — made possible by you, our caring donors — Mitch graduated from the Harambee School this year and was successfully discharged from Elk Hill’s residential program into the care of his grandparents. A country boy at heart, he takes care of the chickens on his grandparents’ farm and spends hours fishing in their creek. Mitch has reached his long-dreamed destination: life in a real home, with a family that loves him.
You made it possible. Without donors like you, Elk Hill can’t provide children with the intensive services they need. Without your support, kids like Mitch won’t get the chance to do better and dream bigger.