Here's what actual parents who have completed The HALO Project have to say about their experiences:
“HALO taught us a new language to communicate with our child.”
“We are finally bonding with our child instead of feeling helpless.”
“I feel capable, full of hope, compassion, able to love them and understanding how they are.”
“Family life has been become a lot less chaotic, because I have better tools to work with.”
“HALO has given us tools to parent with and in return gives me the confidence to raise this sweet girl.”
“It is the best way that I have found, in all my years of fostering, to understand and be able to help the kids.”
My husband and I have been fostering many children off and on over a period of twenty five years. We have a blended family and have adopted five of our ten children. I am a licensed social worker and have worked with children and youth since 1984. My husband was a middle school and high school teacher for seven years, so we have worked with many different children in different capacities.
Most recently we fostered and adopted two sisters that had been through a great deal of trauma in their young lives. Although the youngest was only 18 months old, she had witnessed drug abuse, domestic violence, police activity, fighting, her biological mother being arrested, living in a car in January, and then three placements in less than three months before she ended up in our home.
Her behaviors included head banging, violent tantrums, lashing out at other children, screaming and crying and her referral sheet stated “inconsolable”. We were successful in helping this little girl come a long way in the first three years with our family. However, we reached a place where our traditional methods of parenting and all of our training and experience were no longer meeting her needs. Some of her behaviors we were identifying and labeling included impulsiveness and hurting/ lashing out towards others, unable to accept “no”, extreme separation anxiety and clinginess, and deliberate defiance. As her mother, I became increasingly frustrated with her behaviors and with my inabilities to parent her “correctly”. Nothing seemed to be working and my level of stress was beginning to affect my entire family and my health.
We knew of TBRI and had attended some of the trainings. We heard that the intensive 10 week therapeutic program HALO was being offered and we felt that it was something we needed to try. Although we honestly could not imagine ever fitting this weekly session and therapy into our busy lives, we believed that if there was any chance that it could help us to parent our daughter better, then we had to do it.
We are so pleased to say that even after our first week at HALO we began to see a slight difference. Not only were we learning to parent in a new and effective way, our child was learning a new language that included “stick together”, “no hurts”, “permission and supervision”, asking for a compromise, and asking for a “do over”.
All of these things were taught while connecting and giving our child a feeling of safety and being cared about. By the end of the ten weeks we were seeing such changes in our home as less screaming and crying, accepting no, and much less separation anxiety. We continue to try and use the principles we have learned and our daughter often comments that she misses HALO. We believe that this program was responsible for permanently changing the course of our lives in terms of how we parent and consequently changed our daughter’s life. We highly recommend this program to anyone that is parenting children that have had trauma in their lives, and we encourage the support of this program.
We are so thankful to the Salvation Army for investing in TBRI and particularly in the HALO project. Thank you to the staff and support staff that have sacrificed and gone above and beyond for the sake of all of our children who need this kind of understanding and chance for success in their lives.
Susan and Harold Guntz
We completed the HALO program with our 4 year old daughter, Bella. She was adopted from Ethiopia and came home at 7 months old. Before Bella came home, my husband had I read the Connected Child and were familiar with some of the teachings of Dr. Purvis. Our family always emphasized connection, however, as our Bella got older, we noticed that she was really struggling with separation anxiety and with sensory input.
Before the HALO program, Bella would not participate in outside activities, play alone in a room by herself, or attend a preschool activity. She preferred to be held or touching me all day and had a ton of energy that we struggled to show her how to express in appropriate ways.
The first night of HALO, Bella screamed and clung to me, totally fearful of leaving with her special buddy. Instead of forcing separation from me and my husband, the facilitators allowed Bella to come into our room with us and sit on my lap. Her special buddy was patient and loving and sat on the floor beside us and played with some toys. After a few moments, Bella got off of my lap and sat on the floor with her buddy to play. Little by little, Bella and her buddy got closer to the door, until she eventually decided to go down the hall to see what activities were going on. It was the first time in her life that Bella went and participated in activities without my husband or myself! We were amazed and this continued. By the end of the program, Bella would happily bounce over to her special buddy and say, “bye mommy and daddy!” Bella and her buddy developed a special relationship and she helped to teach her that it is okay to be away from mommy and daddy.
The most valuable lesson that we learned at HALO was the concept of felt safety. We learned how to create a feeling of safety for Bella, both at home and in new situations. Before HALO, we would get frustrated when Bella exhibited fear in new situations or at home. Throughout the program, we learned to read Bella’s signals and to be patient with her need to feel that safety, and to feel connected to us in new situations. As a result of HALO, Bella now happily participated in Sunday School at church, allows babysitters to watch her in our home, plays independently at home, and is excited about attending preschool this fall!! If you had told me that Bella would be doing all these things this time last year, I would not have believed it!
HALO taught us how to put into practice the concepts that we had been familiar with since before she came home. Before HALO, we felt lost as to how to appropriately deal with Bella’s anxiety; after HALO we now have the tools to address her anxiety, create felt safety, and help her to feel confident. The confidence that we now see in our girl is priceless!
HALO also helped us to learn some sensory activities to help meet Bella’s sensory needs. We have sensory bottles, a mini trampoline, and a sensory suit that Bella uses to help regulate herself. We have her “engine” clock hanging on our wall and now Bella uses that clock to express how she is feeling, and knows what to do to get herself back into the “green” or calm zone. It is wonderful to watch our girl be able to express how she is feeling and to know what to do to help herself feel better. Before when Bella would go down a road of anxiety or sensory needs, we felt like we were up a creek without a paddle, unable to get back. HALO has given us a paddle, a tool to help guide our girl back to calmness.
We are so thankful for this program and for the ways that it blessed our family!
--Heidi, foster and adoptive mother who attended our Spring 2018 session of HALO