Victor's New Home
Excerpted from The Family Connection, April, 1994
Families First (Davis, CA) began a pilot program four years
ago to provide therapeutic foster homes for children with
developmental disabilities who have significant behavior
challenges. The Extended Family Program (EFP) exemplifies
their belief that the [best place for children is] within a
family environment. For families, the decision to look for
another living arrangement has been a very difficult one and
in the past, there have been few options outside of group
homes or developmental centers. To best describe this
support service, Families First and Victor's parents have
allowed us to reprint his story.
At the time of Victor's referral to the Extended Family
Program, the 15-year old's behavior included property
destruction like punching holes in walls and throwing
chairs. He was curious and persistent. He would tear apart
an industrial strength state hospital mattress or
disassemble a toilet in a couple of nights. Victor also
urinated in his room and was a "runner," that is, he would
unpredictably bolt and run off. His strengths included his
curiosity, friendliness, and enjoyment of people and
activities, such as music, bike riding, ball playing, roller
skating, and looking at books.
Victor's parents, Steve and Paula Maziar, were skeptical
that Victor could live in a family. The Maziars, like many
loving parents of children with developmental disabilities,
were driven by a desperation brought on by few options.
Victor had been in and out of almost every setting in
California. The Maziars were willing to try the EFP, not
wanting to overlook any opportunity for Victor. At the same
time, they did not really expect anything.
Charles and Roxine Harding were interested in being Victor's
foster parents. They both had experience working with adults
having developmental disabilities and were an active family
that could keep up with Victor. Both families recognized
there were risks involved, but were willing to take them to
give Victor the chance to live outside an institution.
The Harding's willingness to care for and commit to Victor
was tested severely. A sleep disorder resulted in the
Hardings being up literally all night, night after night
with Victor, to prevent him from jumping off the dresser,
urinating on the floor, punching holes in the walls, and
stuffing objects in the toilet and flooding the house.
Working with physicians, it was determined that medication
could help Victor relax and sleep.
Day and night, Victor offered challenges; smearing feces on
the wall, jumping on the kitchen table to break it,
meticulously taking the bolts off the toilet and removing
it, taking the sink off the wall, knocking holes in the
walls, throwing the television set, and hurting himself by
putting his head through the wall.
The Harding's response to these challenges was to pick a
problem area to focus on and not become overwhelmed. They
had Victor participate with Charles in repairs - scrubbing
walls, plastering, taking the toilet apart, laying new
carpet, and whatever else was required. The Maziars were
part of the team, too, gathering broken items when they
picked up Victor for visits, repairing and returning them.
The Hardings paid attention to Victor's preferences in food,
music, activities, and used these as rewards. Gradually, he
began to respond. Charles believes Victor was testing their
commitment to him through all of this.
After Victor had been with the Hardings for several months
and not spoken a word, Roxine hit on a successful strategy.
She would cook a favorite meal and serve him. If he wanted
more, Victor needed to ask for seconds. This proved to be a
great motivation, and soon he was talking. Today, she says
"he comes up with new words and we wonder where he has
Through all of this, Victor's birth and foster family have
worked together. According to the Hardings, "it's as if
Victor has four parents... he sees us as a unit working
together." For their part, the Maziars give great credit to
the Hardings, comparing their work to that of Helen Keller's
teacher. "Victor needed their kind of dedication... he
wouldn't have made it without them... their balance of
structure and personal caring has been the key."
The Hardings and Maziars always believed Victor could make
progress, and their confidence has proven that the risk of a
foster placement for Victor was well worth it.
For Victor, the future looks much brighter. After three years with the
Hardings, he is still growing and learning. After exceeding every
expectation, he is now a young man who is still reaching for his
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