Feels like home…

School is really hard for Chelsea. In addition to extreme anxiety that makes social and peer interactions difficult, she has learning disabilities that make learning difficult. Things reached a breaking point during last school year.  Most everyone’s time and energy was put into just maintaining Chelsea and making it through the school day. This was no way for 4th grade to be going and although we and the school team found ourselves extremely torn, we all agreed Chelsea needed and deserved a higher level of support at school.  This meant changing her IEP coding to Emotional Disability (ED) and getting her placed at a new school with a specialized ED program. 

As a parent, my heart broke for Chelsea. Although this would be in her best interest, the ED code has a strong stigma attached to it.  One stronger than I had given credit as it had already clung onto my daughter. Yup. After the initial excitement of a new school wore off, Chelsea shared that she knew she was one of the “stupid” kids now. And that she had to go to a new school because she was a “bad” kid.  Ugh. And so the internalization of labels began…

As we head towards the first day of school, Chelsea’s anxiety has been ramping up.  This past Monday and Tuesday were REALLY hard with a lot of tears.  I have never heard Chelsea cry this hard – gut wrenching.  Through the tears she shared she was really scared to start at her new school and a lot of her fears centered around those labels of “stupid” and “bad”. 

On Tuesday evening a friend of mine posted a picture of her teacher friend’s new classroom door. I zoomed in on the picture and found myself tearing up as I read through the powerful truths captured by this teacher.  More tears flowed as I thought about how wonderful it would be if all of our kids could have a teacher like this.  I so wished Chelsea could be surrounded by people who understood and believed in her potential like this teacher.  I posted a comment about how much I loved and appreciated the door. 

A few minutes later, I got a message from Mrs. Boyle herself.  She had seen my comment and was wondering if by chance my daughter was Chelsea. Yes! Mrs. Boyle is Chelsea’s new teacher. 

We had the chance to visit the school this week and it was awesome! We met a lot of the program staff and had an intake meeting. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by professionals who speak our language. They understand the trauma history and the impact this has had on the social, emotional, behavioral, and educational aspects of Chelsea’s life.  We couldn’t have hand-picked a better program and set of staff. 

As we were leaving, Chels grabbed my hand and said “I love this school! It’s a lot like home with all of the special words on the wall.” I agree, it feels like home…


Looking forward to a successful school year.  Can’t wait for Chelsea to tear off those labels as she learns that “stupid” and “bad” don’t describe her or her classmates in the least bit.  They are SO much more! They are loved, important, friends, respected, explorers, creators, leaders. They can do hard things. They can change the world. And they are the reason Mrs. Boyle is there! 


About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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2 Responses to Feels like home…

  1. Sue Bartolotta says:

    So glad Chelsea is comfortable with her new teacher. Sure sounds like she is in a safe and nurturing program and I know it will be a great year.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Greg Williams says:

    Great news. Go Chelsea – hope your many gifts have a chance to bloom and grow even even more this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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