Meet Danielle & Shawna: Learning to Bond

Written by Workhorse Marketing

Danielle never knew her drug-addicted mother because she was abandoned and ultimately raised by an abusive aunt. Not having known the love and attention of her own mother, Danielle was unprepared for the task of motherhood at age 14 when she had her first child, Shawna. She was no better prepared for motherhood two years later when she had a second daughter, Desiree.

When the dangerous plight of Danielle and her daughters was called to the attention of Child Protective Services, they were immediately placed in Austin Children’s Shelter’s Teen Mom Cottage.

From the start, it was clear to Danielle’s youth care worker that she was emotionally unable to respond to the needs of her daughters. For example, when the girls excitedly clamored for their mommy’s attention as she arrived home from school, Danielle just walked past them, stone faced. This lack of response created extreme anxiety and fear in three-year old Shawna which our clinical care staff addressed through intensive play therapy sessions.

Ultimately, Danielle’s actions and other symptoms (hearing voices, neglect of her daughters’ needs, etc.) led to the diagnosis of a major depressive disorder. Thanks to the care of one of our psychiatrist partners from the Texas Child Study Center of Dell Children’s Hospital, Danielle was immediately placed on medication and monitored weekly. Once stabilized, her psychiatrist and case manager began the important therapeutic work that Danielle and her daughters needed. Through filial therapy, which incorporates family play sessions, Danielle was taught how to lovingly respond to her little girls and begin the road to developing a nurturing relationship.

Over the course of many months, Danielle’s hard work in therapy and training in child care has helped her to develop the “motherly instincts” most of us learn from our own loving parents. Her progress has been so impressive that she has earned the privilege to take her girls to the park unsupervised. The supportive feedback she receives from Austin Children’s Shelter staff has boosted her self-confidence and we celebrate with her as we watch her family flourish.