Meet Daniel (not his real name). Daniel’s mother is a drug addict who works as a prostitute. She has no contact with her son and her whereabouts are unknown. When Daniel was born, the Department of Social Services recommended that Daniel should be put up for adoption, but his biological father fought for the right to raise him together with his new wife.
Daniel’s father is 63 years old. Recently he has been in prison, and he suffers from a mental health disorder. He has a history of seeking out the services of prostitutes. His wife is 57 years old and she is undergoing treatment for cancer, which includes chemotherapy, which makes her very sick.
Daniel’s case was reviewed by the welfare services and Daniel was placed in WIZO’s care by court order.
When he first came to the WIZO Comprehensive Day Care Center, at the age of eighteen months, Daniel was sullen and tearful. He clung to the caregivers and refused to take part in daily activities. In the playground, he sat alone, lost in his childhood world and if one of his classmates tried to engage with him he would lash out. When the other toddlers were singing and dancing in a circle, Daniel would run to the corner, face the wall and stand rigid with his fingers in his ears.
Often, Daniel would imitate his stepmother by running to the toilet and putting his head over the bowl, as if he was going to vomit.
Patience, hugs and careful assessment by onsite child psychologists have had a positive effect on Daniel, and every step of the way, Daniel’s father and stepmother have been included and encouraged to participate in the necessary therapy to bring a smile to Daniel’s face.
His parents regularly attend parenting classes and there is a marked improvement in their handling of Daniel. Recently, they surprised him with a puppy.
Today, Daniel is a typically boisterous two and a half year old. One caregiver described him as being ‘master of the playground’ as he lines up his friends in groups to play on the climbing frame. He is very nimble and artistic and he loves to draw pictures. He constantly talks about his new pet.
His stepmother, who is thankfully in remission, has renewed energy. She has praised the staff at the day care center for their patience and care, not just of Daniel but also of herself.
“They were there not just for Daniel, but for me too," she said. "I cannot begin to tell you what that means to me.”
Now, when his stepmother comes to pick him up from the day care center, she brings along Daniel’s puppy and Daniel is always so excited to show off his new four-legged friend to all his daycare playmates.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)