7/15/2019 Part 71 Claire’s Story: Davy is having a nightmare

By    A. Hosack & K. Hecht, & P. Berman  

No! STOP! You are hurting my mommy! STOP! 

Larry is punching Claire in the face and stomach. Davy is crouching behind the couch watching. He is screaming at the top of his lungs, but Larry doesn’t pay any attention. Davy is so scared his heart is pounding. He wants to disappear behind the couch. But he can’t tear his eyes away from his mommy and that bad man who is hitting her. 

My mommy needs help. I must protect my mommy! 

Davy is terrified but he rushes out from behind the couch and gets between his mommy and Larry. In an instant, Larry is picking Davy up and throwing him across the room. Davy hits the wall and then drops to the floor. He hurts all over. His groaning pulls Claire’s attention away from Larry’s face. She must help her Davy. She had been passively standing still against the wall as Larry punched her. Now, she bends over and runs at Larry, hitting him hard in the stomach with her head. He is startled and off balance.  

As Larry stumbles backward, he trips over a chair that has fallen over. He falls hard, hitting his head on the wall; in a daze, Larry isn’t moving.  Claire rushes over to Davy, picks him up and runs with him to the back door. They are outside in an instant. She runs with him into the dark woods at the back of the house.  She has no idea where to go but she is going to get there as fast as possible.  

Larry has staggered to his feet and is following them out the back door. He is screaming at her to come back or he will make her sorry. Claire is getting winded. She can’t keep running while carrying Davy. She searches the woods with her eyes and finally sees what she is looking for; a good hiding place. It is a big tree surrounded by low bushes.  

“My Davy, you need to crawl into these bushes and hide against that big tree. You will be safe there.  I am going to confuse the bad man, so he won’t have any idea where you are. Don’t worry. I am going to be sure he doesn’t touch you again. You stay here. Don’t come out till I come and call you.” Davy is terrified, he tries to hold on to his mommy. “Mommy hide here with me.”  “I can’t Davy, my clothes will show through the bushes. I will come back. Keep quiet. Stay down.” Claire gently pushes Davy securely into his hiding place and then takes off into the woods. 

The bad man is coming. Where is my mommy? She said to stay here. Where is my mommy? 

Davy is well hidden from view, but he can see through the bushes. Larry is stumbling towards him but not looking down where Davy is hiding. Davy puts his hands over his own mouth to keep himself from screaming.  

That bad man is looking for my mommy. Don’t let him find my mommy! 


Larry stumbles and looks down as he catches himself. He sees Davy’s eyes staring at him from behind the bush. He pulls the bushes apart and grabs for Davy who begins to kick and scream at the top of his lungs. 

Claire hears Davy screaming. She rushes into his room and turns on the light. She strokes his hair and says, “my Davy, wake up. You are safe. You are having a bad dream.” Davy’s eyes pop open. He looks terrified. Claire gathers him up in a big hug, “you are safe.” “Mommy, it was the bad man. I won’t have him as my daddy, I won’t.” Claire doesn’t know what to say so she just strokes his hair and tells him over and over that he is safe. 

Davy buries his face in Claire’s chest. “I don’t want to see that bad man. Please don’t make me ever see that bad man.” Claire’s heart hurts. Her dreams of a happy family with Larry, are pushed even further into the land of the impossible. Even telling Davy about how Larry saved her, didn’t keep him from having another nightmare about him. She needed help with this. She didn’t want her Davy having dreams like this.  

“Davy, I am your mommy. It is my job to keep you safe. Mr. and Mrs. Carson are also here to keep you safe. Everyone in this house loves you.” After a few more minutes, Davy falls asleep in her arms. Claire gently tucked him back under his covers and then went downstairs to think. 

Davy’s experiences with Larry were traumatic. While he has been kept safe, the adults in his life assumed he would just “forget” all about what happened. Traumatic experiences aren’t just forgotten. Davy will need help understanding what happened that scary day with Larry and learn how to deal with the thoughts and feelings he gets about that day. 

Davy is having nightmares because he has experienced the trauma of seeing his mother abused and being abused himself. However, children don’t have to be traumatized to have nightmares. Strategies have been developed that can help children feel safe in the dark and process their nightmares, so they won’t be afraid to go to sleep at night. To read more about these go to:  



7/12/2019 Part 70 Claire’s story: Davy deserves to feel safe

By   P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht 

Davy is scared. I must be calm. No matter what Davy says, I need to stay calm so he can feel less scared.  

Claire was still feeling shocked by Davy’s reaction to Larry’s picture; she hadn’t known he was having nightmares about Larry. She had just hoped he didn’t remember those bad times. However, he did and that was that. She had to shake of her own feelings for now, she could get comfort from the Carsons for herself later. Her Davy needed her. She dried her cheeks and blew her nose using a tissue Mrs. Carson handed her. She got up from the floor and walked up the stairs. She knocked gently on the door to Davy’s bedroom and called out, “Davy, its mommy” and then walked in. Clairsaw an empty room but knew that her Davy was hiding somewhere. “Davy, my heart. I know you are scared.  I am here to take care of you. You are safe. I am not going to let your daddy hurt you.” Davy whispered from under the bed, “promise?”   


Claire sat down on the floor by the bed and said, “I promise. Now come sit in mommy’s lap.” Davy crawled out from under the bed, sat in her lap and buried his face in her chest. Claire just stroked his head over and over. When he finally looked up at her, she took a tissue and wiped his face and nose. “I love you my Davy. Mommy’s job is to keep you safe and I will.” 

“Mommy, that bad man hurt me and you.” Claire took a deep breath. “Yes, your daddy did hurt us.” Davy buried his face again. Claire just stroked his hair again. After a few minutes Davy looked up and said, “why do I have a mean daddy?” Claire didn’t know what to say. A few months ago, she would have felt pressured to somehow say something. However, Dr. Berman had helped her realize that t it was okay not to know what to say; no one always knew what to say. It made sense to need time to think through difficult things. 

“Davy, you are right, your daddy did mean things to us. Your daddy has also done good things. It is hard to understand why he could be good sometimes and mean others. I am going to work on understanding this better. When I do, I will explain it to you.” Davy hugged Claire close.  “Mommy, can you tell me something good about my daddy?”  

“Yes, of course I can. It is getting late, and you need to get ready for bed. Then, I will tell you a bedtime story where your daddy did something good.” Davy rushed to his dresser drawers and took out his pajamas. He stripped, changed clothes, put his clothes in the hamper, and jumped into bed so fast that Claire could tell he was still anxious. He always got extra fidgety when he was worried about something. 

“Davy, I am going to tell you a really good story about your dad. But, if you have any nightmares about him again, I want you to tell me right away okay?”  “Yes mommy, I was so afraid of that man I couldn’t tell you about my dreams. It was too scary to tell.” “Davy, no matter how scary, you can always tell me. Remember, I will hug you while you tell me, so you know you are safe.”  Davy smiled and looked so happy. Claire hoped she could tell the story just right for him. 

“A long time ago before you were born, I went to a school that wasn’t nice like yours. The kids were mean, the teachers would walk by and not stop kids from being mean. Let’s just call it the mean school. I would hide in the bathroom a lot because it felt safer, just like you sometimes hide under the bed. But one day, two really mean boys who were bigger than me grabbed me as I was leaving the bathroom. I struggled and kicked but they wouldn’t let go. They were hurting me.” Claire noticed that Davy was looking scared, “don’t worry Davy, I am going to be okay. We are getting to the good part.” 

Oh please- oh please let me do this right. I don’t want Davy to have nightmares about his dad. 

“Your dad walked out of the boys’ bathroom door. He had never met me before. He saw those two boys hurting me. He came over right away, just like a hero in a movie. He made those boys let me go. He helped me stand up. He could see I was scared so he put his arm around me. I hadn’t been able to eat lunch and he took me to the school cafeteria, and we ate lunch together. I felt so safe. He kept his arm around me all afternoon and walked me to the bus. It was the first time I had ever felt safe in school and it was all because of your daddy.” 

“That was a good story mommy. My daddy saved you. That was good.” Claire kissed him on the cheek, tucked him in and softly left the room. 

Bullying, sexual harassment, date rape- can all happen in school. Research has shown that schools that have teachers and staff walking around all the halls and outside spaces around school can greatly reduce victimization in the schools. However, it costs money to have more adults supervising. 

Would it be worth it to you for tax dollars to be spent ensuring all schools were well supervised? Consider going to the following website and making up your own mind as to whether we have enough policies and regulations to keep schools safe or if we need new or better ones. 




7/8/2019 Part 69 Claire’s Story: Davy is curious

By  K. HechtA. Hysock, & P. Berman 

I must tell Davy the truth. Why did I say it was a surprise? Now he is expecting something like a birthday party. What was I thinking? 

It had been a regular day to start. Everything had gone smoothly getting Davy off to school. The day at work had been long but Claire hadn’t had any difficult people to work with. She came home tired, ready for dinner and then a bouncy excited Davy had hugged her, looked up and asked, “Do I have a daddy?” 

Claire had looked up to see Mrs. Carson staring at her- also speechless. Claire had looked down at Davy and said, “why are we talking about daddies?” Davy had said that today at school a dad, instead of a mom, had come in as a volunteer. He had been great fun on the playground. He had chased them all around and around. Claire agreed that it sounded like great fun. She had tried to change the subject by saying she could chase everyone around the next time it was her day to volunteer. 

“Do I have a daddy? Do I?” It was at that moment, when he was looking right into her eyes that she just went crazy and said, “it’s a surprise! I will tell you all about it after dinner.” Davy loved surprises. He had run around the kitchen saying to the Carsons, “mom is giving me a surprise after dinner. YEAH….” Mr. Carson had grabbed him, given him a bear hug and said, “yes, surprises are fun. Now, sit down at the table for dinner.” Mr. Carson had sent Claire a hug with his eyes. He knew Davy must have blown her away. 


Mrs. Carson had made a wonderful meal but only Davy seemed hungry. The adults just kept looking down at their food and cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces. Mr. Carson chocked a few times as food went down the wrong way. Claire just kept thinking over and over what she might say to Davy. 

Okay, I am going to show him a picture of Larry. He won’t remember him. He won’t.  

After dinner, as Davy tried to help the Carsons cleanup, Claire went upstairs to find her picture of Larry. 

She was going to just show him the picture and say that his daddy lived far away but thought Davy was a wonderful boy. Davy was going to ask questions. He was such a curious kid. She had to think about good things she knew about Larry so she could make him feel good about who his daddy was. Did she know enough good things? Did she know good things that could be shared with a little kid?  

Claire came down stairs and tried to smile as she saw the Carsons sitting on the couch with a squirmy Davy sitting in between them. He was so excited.  

How I wish Davy had a daddy like Mr. Carson. Davy would have always known his dad and …. I must tell him the truth. Davy still gets Mr. Carson, even though Larry is his daddy. 

Claire sat down on the floor next to the Carsons and Davy slipped down off the couch and sat next to her with a huge smile on his face. She put Larry’s picture down on the coffee table and looked into Davy’s face. She said, “here sweetie, here is a picture of your daddy.”  

This is bad. This isn’t a surprise. No. No. No. No. I won’t have him as my daddy. 

Davy was staring at Larry’s face and seeing the mean man in his nightmares. This was his daddy? Davy looked right into Claire’s face and screamed, “NOOOO” at the top of his lungs and ran out of the room, up the stairs, and slammed his bedroom door. He dived under his bed and began to cry. 

Claire looked up at the Carsons. She was crying silently. Mrs. Carson patted her shoulder. “Davy remembers Larry. He remembers.  What do I do?” Mr. Carson said, “let’s ask for a family appointment with Dr. Berman.” Claire nodded. 

Davy is safe now. But he remembers the scary times that involved Larry. He doesn’t want a scary dad. He wants a fun daddy, the kind that chases kids around the room tickling them. Claire can’t change the past. She can’t change the fact that Larry is Davy’s father.  

Do you tell children the truth, when it is scary? 

There are no easy answers. However, children always need answers to be tailored to their ability to understand.  While sometimes adults choose to lie to children about aspects of their past, the truth often will come out and then the consequences came be a rupture of trust between the parent who lied and the child.  

Children slowly learn the difference between making a mistake, telling a clear lie and telling a “social lie” to not hurt someone’s feelings. If you are interested in reading an article that gives more details about this go to: 



7/5/2019 Part 68 Claire’s Story: Is Claire making another friend?

By      P. Berman, & K. HechtA. Hysock  

I can’t believe it. Tommy’s mom invited us over for ice cream after library next week. I didn’t even try to make her like me! 

Wow, Claire didn’t even know what to think. She had just gotten off the phone with Mary, the mother of one of Davy’s friends at the library. Mary was one of those really organized moms who rushed her child in on time and rushed her child out after the story was over; she never seemed to be searching for one of Tommy’s shoes in the library, like Claire was often looking for something Davy had managed to lose.  

Mary had told her this amazing thing on the phone that involved Davy- a great thing. Tommy had been having nightmares about fires ever since their house was struck by lightning last month; he hadn’t told his mom because he could already see she had so much to worry about.  

Mary hadn’t thought anything about the 4th of July, she was still so busy trying to help her family live out of suitcases in a small apartment; it never occurred to her to connect the fireworks with a lightning storm. Mary was so relieved she finally understood why Tommy had been so grumpy and mean since they moved to the apartment; he wasn’t being selfish that he had to share a room with his brother, he was scared because his room at home had caught fire. 

Tommy had told his mom that he hadn’t realized that fireworks were actually “fire” until he saw the video at the library. Then, he got really scared; maybe his new apartment would catch on fire too. But Tommy wasn’t scared now because Davy had really helped him. Tommy told his mom all the stuff Davy had learned from Claire about fireworks the moment they got into the car to go home from the library.  

Tommy’s mom was almost overwhelmed by what she was hearing about Davy and Claire. Davy, that over active little boy had been so kind to her son and had given him such good advice, coming from…his mom ClaireMary had started the library program with her son Tommy, before Claire and Davy joined. When they did join, Mary wasn’t anxious for her son to play with Davy. She worried that Davy’s running around all the time would make her Tommy less obedient. When Davy had introduced himself to the group, he had said he lived with his foster grand-parents the Carsons. 

Mary had never met anyone in foster care beforeIt seemed odd to her that Claire and Davy were both in foster care? How old was Claire? Why wasn’t she living in her own place with Davy? When she tried to imagine what children needing foster care were like, she imagined some dirty, aggressive, badly behaved kid; someone whose own parents couldn’t be bothered to take care of.

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Davy being so kind to her Tommy, and Claire having such helpful advice, shocked her into thinking more clearly about what she knew about them.  Claire always brought Davy to the library early so that they were in the sitting circle on time. When it had been Claire’s turn to pick out a book and read it to everyone, her Tommy always loved them Claire even brought healthy snacks when it was her turn, and she had made them herself; Mary, would just buy cookies and bring them in, because it was so much easier. 

Claire wasn’t taking the easy road of being a mom; she had gone to school and worked full-time. Davy, the boy she had been worried about, had helped her Tommy talk to her about his nightmares, and his worries about fireworks. Mary realized she had prejudged Claire- in a mean way. Mary hoped Claire hadn’t noticed how standoffish she had been. Mary was going to try to fix that situation, right away. Everyone had a phone list; in case something went wrong and the book or snack schedule had to be changed fast.  

Mary called and invited Claire and Davy to join her family for a treat after the next library session. Claire sounded so happy to be invited over, she even asked if she could help by bringing over a snack or some of Davy’s toys. Mary felt so ashamed of herself- but the phone call helped. Mary loved her son. She could hear in Claire’s voice the love she had for Davy. Thank goodness she had realized how wrong she was before she hurt Claire or Davy’s feelings. 

It’s hard not to jump to conclusions about people and situations that are new to you. 

Unfortunately, it can lead you to believe negative things about other people. It may unintentionally lead you to hurt them actively- by being standoffish or mean, or inactively by not supporting programs like extended foster care for abused children that could transform the life of some child in need. 

To understand some common foster care myths that are out-in-the world creating trouble for people like Claire and Davy, consider reading: 


Did you know that some very famous people have been foster children? To read about a few go to: 



7/3/2019 Part 67 Claire’s Story: Davy shares something he knows to help a friend

By     A. Hysock, P. Berman, & K. Hecht  

My mom told me good friends help. I can tell Tommy is scared. I know something that might help. 

Davy is sitting next to Tommy at the library. They had just heard a mom read a book about the 4th of July. To make the book more interesting, the new librarian had turned on a video that had fireworks in it. Davy’s mommy had warned him that fireworks could make very loud sudden noises. When the video came on, he jumped each time he heard the firework explode but it was a fun scary. He felt something. Tommy had been sitting right next to him, but now he didn’t feel Tommy’s arm up against his. 

Davy looked over at Tommy who seemed to look shrunk into the floor further and further. He didn’t seem to be feeling scared…in a fun way. Tommy’s face had a frozen look on it. Davy remembered that Tommy’s house had caught fire during a thunder storm. Their family were renting an apartment now. It would take a long time for their house to get fixed. 


Davy whispered in Tommy’s ear, “fireworks aren’t like thunder,” your apartment won’t get hurt. Tommy turned to him immediately whispering, “are you sure?” “Yes, Tommy I am sure. My mom explained the whole thing to me yesterday. They set the fireworks up far away from people’s stuff. Then, only people who really know what they are doing touch them. If we go to see real fireworks, we won’t be allowed anywhere close!” 

Tommy was sitting up straight again, but he still didn’t look like his regular Tommy self. Davy tickled his hand and said, “this is how my mom explained it. She said it was like the difference between hitting your hand on the table, accidentally- it hurts, it feels bad- and having your mom tickle your hand. You know she is going to grab your hand and she is stronger than you. You are going to tell to stop but you don’t really mean it- it feels good, it’s fun and you don’t want it to stop.”   

“Why is this like fireworks?” Tommy said, giving Davy his, “don’t tell me fibs” look. “Lightening just happen due to weather. No grownup is planning it. Fireworks happen (like tickling) because a grown up is taking charge and making it a fun, exciting time. Are you going to the fireworks Davy?”  

“Yes, we are all going to a park near our house fun. It will be the best type of scary. I am going to sit in my mom’s lap so when the bangs make me jump, she can hug me to remind me I am safe.” “Do you think my mom would let me sit in her lap at the fireworks?” Tommy asked. “Sure, she would if she isn’t already holding your baby brother.” Tommy looked sad about that.  

Davy had a new idea and whispered, “why don’t you ask your mom if your brother could sit in your lap while you are sitting in hers? That way you can help keep him in the scary but fun zone!” Tommy shoved Davy over. It wasn’t the mean type of shove. It was the fun shove of a friend. 

Have you ever tried to help someone, and then found that this person passed the good help on to someone else?  

Consider looking around today and finding a personal advocacy step to take to make a small moment better for someone else. If you live in a city, you could have quarters in your pocket and feed a meter that is about to expire. If you are walking into a busy building, you can hold the door open for the person behind you and wish them a good day. If you are in a rush, and someone seems to be holding you up, you can slow yourself down into mindfulness and ask how their day is going and notice how it makes you feel to do it.  

7/1/2019 Part 66 Claire’s Story: Claire begins to feel good about herself.

By     K. Hecht & A. Hysock & P. Berman  

I have worked hard to help myself and Davy. I can feel good about that, despite my mistakes. 

Claire has been thinking a lot about her decisions. The good ones like accepting help from people like the Carsons. The bad ones, like allowing Larry to dominate her thinking- despite his lack of good judgment. Dr. Berman had talked to her a lot about paying more attention to what she was doing right and forgiving herself for what she hadn’t. It was hard. Somehow all the mistakes she had made, pounded through her head whenever she wasn’t busy. 

She had found it easier, to let go of worries, if she listened to music, that made her heart pound in a hopeful wayHer current favorite was “Firework” by Katy Perry (Teenage Dream, 2010). Perry co-wrote the song with Ester Dean and its producers StarGate. Whenever Claire heard this song, she tried to use her mindfulness techniques and allow some worry to pass through her mind but then bring herself back to the image of fireworks.  

On good days, she could end her reflection time feeling in the moment that each firework was one of her aspirations- to be a great mom, to be a great daughter to the Carsons, to be a great partner to someone, maybe Larry, a firework, a force of heat through passionate caring, not pain. 

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Claire felt ready to go in. She had been able to sit out on the back porch behind the Carsons house and do her firework mindfulnessOn most days, Claire would be with the Carsons in the living room now, having adult family time; she loved this time, it was so quiet and peaceful. But sometimes Claire needed to do some heavy thinking that she preferred to do alone- just to think it through herself. 

Claire was proud that she had been able to speak up after putting Davy to bed and tell the Carsons she needed about thirty minutes alone to think something through. Claire wanted to be the kind of adult, and parent, who people could count on to take responsibility for themselves.  

Now, sitting in the dark, looking up in the night sky, Claire began to imagine she could see fireworks going off. She had never seen a firework show until she moved in with the Carsons. She just loved them, so intense, so beautiful; so noisy but a safe type of noisy. It wouldn’t be long. The 4th of July was almost here, and they had invited Shelly and her son, to watch the fireworks together in the park. Claire had shown Davy pictures of them and he was very excited. These would be his first firework display. 

Claire had been reading a parenting magazine that talked about the way young children, versus older ones, might experience fireworks. They advised young children to be given clear explanations of what would happen, what was safe behavior around fireworks, what wasn’t. Claire knew that Davy was looking forward to the colors. He needed to understand that there would also be loud noise, smoke, and heavy crowds- things he didn’t like. 

Claire had been easy on herself this week in her session with Dr. Berman. She had asked for an individual appointment this time so she could just focus on practicing her self-care strategies. She had explained to the Carsons that she was learning about prisons, and what Larry might or might not be like when he got out. She said it was tough to read and she just needed a brain break, to let herself remember all the great things she and Davy had to look forward to. She assured them she knew decisions about Larry would have to be made soon.  

Claire realized she had to allow herself enough time to work through something that was such a big decision- the role of Larry in her and Davy’s lives. Fortunately, Larry wasn’t coming home tomorrow. She didn’t need to know today what decision to make; even though she wished she did.  Claire had time to learn and reflect. 

Is Claire doing the right thing giving herself a “brain break” or is she using “avoidance coping” by not talking with the Carsons and Dr. Berman about Larry this week? 

Do you know anyone who might be unsure about the difference between avoiding making an important decision and recognizing you need to use self-care strategies when you were working on making a very tough one?: 

If you think someone might be using “avoidance coping,” which spirals a person down to further problems, consider suggesting the reading below. This article also discusses some effective coping strategies. 


If you think someone might value reading more about self-care strategies and how they can help, consider suggesting the reading below. It shows the goal of healthy self-care which is to allow for more effective decision making. 



6/28/2019 Part 65 Claire’s Story: Claire is an advocate for her family’s safety

By     P. Berman, K. Hecht & A. Hysock 

want Larry. I must keep Davy safe. Can I get both? Is it even possible? 

Claire was tired of wondering if she had to cut Larry out of her life. She was going to be her own advocate; she was going to learn more about men like Larry and decide for herself if there was a reasonable chance of safely letting him back into her lifeWhere could she start without making the Carsons freak out…. Claire put in a question on her computer browser asking, “what could help men stay out of prison after being in the first time.”  

Several things came up, but she didn’t think the resources sounded trustworthy. Then, she found something, from the Pew Research Center- that was a trustworthy place. Wow, it’s about religion.  

Larry never mentioned God. Did they even have services in jail? Maybe if life was boring… 

Claire and Larry had been brought up without any attention to religion. Before moving in with the Carsons, she hadn’t really thought about religion at all. Out of respect for their views, she had started taking Davy to religious services with them; their church didn’t seem to mind how antsy Davy would get. Claire liked how accepting everyone seemed to be of finding her with the Carsons. It was the same church they had raised their real kids in and all the older people in the congregation, knew she was a foster child but were nice to her anyway. 

Mr. Carson had been on the church council for years. He had spoken up and gotten the church to donate one fund raising cycle to Head Start. Mr. Carson had been very proud of his church; it was the first time he had been an advocate for a social cause and at first, things hadn’t seemed to go well. But, in the end, a majority had voted to help Head Start in their local community. They had raised enough money to provide new school books for every classroom; the ones they had currently been using were very out-of-date. 

Sitting in church the next Sunday, Claire wondered what Larry would think to see her and Davy knowing all the words to all the songs in the service. Larry didn’t seem like the religious type to Claire, but this article looked promising. It said that eight-in-ten (81%) prison chaplains in the Pew survey found a spiritual connection critical for rehabilitation of prisoners in jail for substance abuse or mental health problems. For it to be effective, one chaplain was quoted as saying, “Personal contact is crucial. You minister through relationship. Being accepting, non- judgmental, working toward self esteem issues is important” (Pew, 2012; p.66). The article went on to say that work both in-prison and out-of-prison with the continued support of the church was critical. 

Huh, a non-judgmental attitude- that sounded good, the chaplain shouldn’t pre-judge Larry for hitting her. What was accepting supposed to mean? Was it like the chaplain would accept Larry, despite his being in jail like the Carsons accepted Claire, despite her being a foster kid? Claire wondered if the church could be the support for Larry that the Carsons had been for her? 


Claire couldn’t imagine Larry praying. But she did find a picture- of someone who might be in prison, praying. He looked deep in prayer and he also looked much scary than her Larry. Many different religions whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and others, had chaplains who visited prisons. Not all prisons could get religious leaders to come and volunteer their time. 

Maybe there was hope? Maybe if Larry’s prison had a chaplain and if Larry went to services… 

While Pew says that Protestant Churches provide many chaplains and volunteers, other faiths need greater support if prisoners are to attend services within the faith of their choice. Volunteers can help to fill gaps when there are not enough religious leaders available in an area. 

If you are interested in more details about religions in the prisons, consider reading: 

Citation: Pew Research Center (2012). Religion in Prisons. https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2012/03/Religion-in-Prisons.pdf 

Chaplain is a nondenominational title in the state prison system and just refers to a religious leader, of any faith. If you are interested in investigating whether you or someone you know could become a religious chaplain or volunteer, consider checking out:  


6/26/2019 Part 64 Claire’s Story: Larry worries about Claire’s safety.

By    A. Hysock, P. Berman, & K. Hecht 

The book says share your worries and concerns with your loved one. This sharing business freaks me out. 

Larry was nervous and unsure of himself. The book talked about in a good relationship, each person tried to understand the needs and wants of the other person.   Claire was clearly trying to put being a good mother first. He needed to understand when she was doing that and not assume it meant she was ignoring him.  

I might lose my edge, not be the boss, if I do this? Would Claire still respect me as a man? 

Larry was a lot smarter than he realized and was learning more from the book each day. Manuel didn’t need to help him read anymore, his reading skills had taken off, but they would still pass the time talking about what it said together.  All the years of abuse from his father had made Larry feel both deeply angry and deeply insignificant. He had needed constant and immediate attention from Claire, to be her one and only, to feel any sense of counting in the world.  

Studying the relationship book, and reflecting on past events with Manuel, had helped Larry see how Claire’s attempts to get him to know Davy, had made him feel rejected.  It was a lot easier to see this now that Claire and Davy weren’t around, and he could talk to Manuel for hours about it. Could he do this once he left prison?  Larry was struggling to understand what a real relationship meant. But he had learned enough now to realize that what he did about gang business could have major impacts on anyone close to him.  

The drug trade was a dangerous business. Larry pretended not to notice, because it was safer, but he saw how guys who didn’t pay up or who stole profits, ended up dead.  He was not going to risk anyone close to him being hurt by his decision to escape the drug trade. While pretending to sleep, Larry was often thinking about how to best protect Claire, Davy, Manuel, and especially Martin. He knew that Martin had taken a big risk bringing him into the gang. Martin would be held accountable for any mistakes Larry made.  

Martin had heard about his early parole at lunch, a few minutes before Larry was called to the table. He had heard the conversation between Larry and the gang leader and recognized it wasn’t marked by the same smiles and laughter as his had been.  Martin cared about Larry as a friend, but he also cared about his own skin and his own family’s safety. The prison gang’s reach went far beyond this small prison- his family could pay for his mistakes and Larry’s.   

The gang leader noticed signs of Larry’s lack of enthusiasm about his early parole deal. He had invested money in Larry, and this white guy was not going to back out; the only question was, how hard would it be to get that message across to Larry? He was keeping a watch on Larry who was still delivering all his packets on schedule and was returning all the money right away. He had also given Martin orders to keep a close watch on Larry’s action.  

Martin showed up in the library and asked Larry what was wrong. Larry had started out honestly, saying he was having some doubts about the deal. A few minutes into the conversation, Larry realized that he might be endangering Martin if he told him the entire truth. It felt bad, which was a surprise, but Larry lied to Martin.  He told him his only concern really was Claire and Davy. They lived four hours from Philadelphia, and he had no money to pay for them to move; Claire had no money either.  

Martin relaxed and smiled; this was not a “real” problem. He told Larry how easy it would be to save up the money to move Claire and Davy; Larry could work a few extra shifts and have plenty of money to pay the gang back for the lawyer and to move his family up to Philadelphia. They ended the conversation with smiles and a hearty handshake. They left the library together talking easily about what their first night out of jail might be like. Larry smiled and laughed a lot- he had a lot of experience keeping his real feelings to himself.  

Martin went immediately back to the gang after talking to Larry; he had been very reassured by the conversation. He knew there was no backing out of the parole deal, or the move to Philadelphia. Martin genuinely liked Larry, he didn’t think he had hurt him by bringing him into gang life; in fact, Larry might be dead now if the gang hadn’t accepted him.  The core of the gang was sitting together at the back of the dining hall. Martin went up to the table and waited to be acknowledged. He then said, “No worries.  Larry is on board. He just needed help figuring out how to get his girl and son to relocate– he needs her close to really enjoy being out of jail….” Everyone started to laugh. 

Larry had doubled back to the library after leaving Martin. Larry was going to put everyone’s safety first. He would have to be patient and careful- two things he knew were tough for him. He worked hard with Manuel on a new letter to Claire. Manuel was going to mail it. Larry knew he had to make sure the gang leader didn’t get a look at this letter. Manuel had a special relationship with the post master who was a regular church attender. He could get Larry’s letter out without it going through the usual chain of command. Larry knew there had to be someone in the gang who had access to this chain. It gave him a big pain in his gut, but he knew what he had to say to Claire- to keep her safe. 

“Dear Claire,” he said, sweat pouring down his face. “I live for your letters but don’t send anymore. I’ve made some big mistakes.  I will explain it all to you when I get out. Just know that it is safer for you and Davy if everyone here thinks you have dropped me. He ended his letter, Love Larry.” Manuel patted Larry on the back; writing the word “love” had been hard for him; it was making a commitment to Claire he had never been able to make before. 

Larry looked like he had aged ten years while writing the letter- despite how short it was. The letter had taken him thirty minutes to writeNow, Larry was staring off into space. Manuel recognized that look. He remembered how it felt on his own face, when he had written to his family that all letters must be in English; knowing they couldn’t write him in English. For Claire to be safe, the gang had to think Larry no longer cared for her and was ready to move to Philadelphia- free from any ties back home. Larry planned to act angry each mail day and complain of Claire’s laziness. He would set the groundwork for saying he wouldn’t waste any of his new money to move such a lazy bitch. 

Larry walked slowly down to his cell. He felt dead insideHe had skipped dinner. This might make the gang suspicious. The next morning, he did some groaning and asked the guard to let him stay in his cell during breakfast. He  spent the morning propped up against the wall in his cell.  

Modern Prison Cell

As expected, some of the gang showed up at his cell after breakfast. The gang leader said he had been missed at breakfast, what was up?   Larry gave a convincing barf and said his stomach had been queasy since eating that crap called lunch yesterday; he was focusing his mind on not throwing up and having to see that stuff again. Everyone laughed. Larry said he probably would be skipping meals for at least the rest of the day but if he was needed to run any…. errands, he thought he could handle it. The gang leader nodded in approval, handed him some packets through the bars and told him to get better soon- the attorney handling the parole would be showing up soon. 

Can Larry get out of the drug trade? Would the gang care enough about him to track him down if he ran after getting out of jail? 

If you want to read more about prison gangs, go to: 


6/24/2019 Part 63 Claire’s Story: Larry the drug dealer?

By    A. Hysock, P. Berman, & K. Hecht 

 If I say yes, I can get out. I want out so bad. If I say no, I am trapped and lose my protection!

Larry should be excited. He could get early parole.  But he wasn’t excited. He was feeling smashed down, controlled, no choice visible anywhere. Martin was trying to reassure him that it was going to be okay. Sure, Larry couldn’t go home but he would get out of prison!

The gang leader that was watching out for Larry in prison was part of a large drug cartel that had a base I several major northeast cities; it needed some new dealers in Philadelphia. This cartel would front the money for an attorney to go with Larry to his parole hearing and “make sure” he made parole. The good part of the deal was that Martin would be sent with him to teach him the trade.  The bad part was that he was being sent about four hours away from Claire and he didn’t want to sell drugs. Sure, he Suspect or criminal man with handcuffs  in interrogation room

had spread some packets around in jail, but once he got out, he had hoped to maybe get a job with a future, something he wouldn’t be ashamed to tell Claire and Davy about.

It had taken a long time but with Manuel’s help, he had finished the book about relationships. He understood enough of what he read to know that in relationships that lasted, couples respected each other’s choices; even when they didn’t agree. Larry knew that selling drugs would not be an occupation Claire or those Carsons would approve of. Larry didn’t even like giving out drugs in the jail, even though he didn’t have the “bad” job of dealing with the guys who didn’t pay up… but he saw how the men who were regular users deteriorated; it made him feel like his dad to give guys things that were destroying them from the inside out.

Larry hated his father. He realized that someday Davy would be old enough to wonder what type of dad he was; Larry didn’t want to be hated. He was going to services sometimes with Manuel. He didn’t really believe there was a God. The service talked about God being all powerful and loving everyone, it was impossible to believe that. Where was this all powerful being who loved him when Larry’s dad was beating the skin off his back?  On the other hand, Larry did like Manuel and he did feel calm around him and at the services; calm felt good to Larry.

Martin had been a good friend to Larry, and he came to the religious services sometimes also; but he was always handing out drug packets to the guys at the service in the back rows. Martin didn’t get why Larry wasn’t happy about the parole thing. He knew Philadelphia was far from where Claire was living but so what? He could just tell Claire to move herself to where he was. It would take a few months, but Larry should be pulling in enough money as a dealer, to put himself and his family in a decent apartment.

Larry was used to keeping all his thoughts and feelings to himself. It was dangerous around his house to show any emotion at all. Claire had been Larry’s only friend for most of his life; he had shared more with her than anyone else- but still she knew little of what he was thinking and feeling. Now he had two more friends, Martin and Manuel but they were encouraging him towards very different paths.

What should Larry do?

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has found that most individuals in jail for drug dealing, are low-level street dealers and others who move drugs from one location to another. Putting them in jail has little impact on the drug trade. As is being seen in Larry’s case, when a dealer or mule is taken off the streets, a new person is sent to replace them. According to the Pew Charitable Trust (2018), 10% or more people in the USA report having used an illegal drug recently. Pew found no relationship between a state’s drug imprisonment rate and the state’s drug problems. Recommendations for more effective reduction of drug misuse included: police interference in trafficking of drugs; police interference in the development of new markets for drugs; alternate sentencing for non-violence offenders; drug treatment services; and, services for prevention of drug use. A combination of psychosocial treatment and medication were recommended for reduction of drug misuse. To read about this  go to:


6/21/2019 Part 62 Claire’s Story: Family Treatment – Larry the hero?

By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hysock 

I must protect Davy, the Carsons, myself? Do I have to give Larry up? 

Claire came out of her own head to hear Mrs. Carson say, “Larry will come home from prison and hurt Claire and Davy again, maybe even worse than before.” Back to the reality that the Carsons had no hope for Larry; Claire slumped even deeper into her chair, her face white, and her legs trembling.   

“Claire, you look like you are overdosing right now, hearing the Carsons fears of Larry. You mentioned a few weeks back that Larry was more than the bad things he did to you and Davy on your last date. You have told us that Larry was your best friend and he was the one person in your childhood who protected you.” “Yes, he was,” Claire whispered. 

“Could you tell us more about that,” Dr. Berman asked. (2-minute pause) Claire wanted this change in direction but what should she sayEveryone was silent, expectant, waiting for her- there seemed to be an endless pause.  Claire looked desperately at Dr. Berman. “Take your time,” Dr. Berman whispered, “there is no need to rush, you have time, we are here to listen.” 

Larry had helped her so many times, but Claire discarded most of her memories as being too painful for the Carsons to hear.  But there must be something that wouldn’t overwhelm them… Claire remembered something small but clearly good. She looked up and said, “I wanted to find something that would help you understand the deep link between Larry and me. The first time I met Larry, I was in so much trouble, trying to defend myself but losing big time. I was in the bathroom hallway at school trying to get to the girls’ bathroom and two boys jumped me. One held me down while the other was 


trying to get my  pants off. I wanted to scream but no sound came out. Larry came out of the boys, bathroom room and saw what they were doing. He could have just walked by. He didn’t. He looked into my eyes; it was love at first sight. He began punching and the next thing I remembered, his warm hands were pulling my pants back on and he was helping me stand up.  

Claire had a small smile on her face as she remembered the moment. Then she looked around, and no one else was smiling.  

I have done something wrong. I was sure this was the right story. Why aren’t they smiling? 

“Claire, how terrified you must have been,” Dr. Berman said, “it is confusing to me that you can talk about something that must have been traumatic (pause) and be smiling.” (2-minute pause) “I don’t know. I wasn’t really thinking about those boys attacking me. For me, the story is how Larry became my hero,” Claire said softly. 

Mrs. Carson was still thinking about the assault, “how could this have happened at school?”  Surprised that they were still thinking about the other boys instead of Larry, Claire said, Well, getting sexually harassed was an everyday thing at my school. I had seen those boys before, but they hadn’t ever tried to talk to me. (1-minute pause) They might have picked me because they knew I didn’t have friends and would be walking down the hall by myself?”  

“Did you tell a teacher what had happened? Did the police arrest those boys,” Mr. Carson asked, feeling outraged that his daughter had been attacked at school. “No, (pause) it didn’t occur to me to tell a teacher. I guess my body was being hit all the time at home, I didn’t think it was that odd I was getting attacked at school.” Mrs. Carson was crying, Mr. Carson automatically handed her the tissue box. 

I am so sorry I upset you both. I didn’t mean to. I just wanted you to understand Larry better. Can you both see now, why Larry means so much to me?” Claire asked. Mr. Carson looked at his wife who was now crying heavily. He said, “Larry was a hero that day Claire. (I-minute pause) He came along and protected you when you really needed it. (2-minute pause) It is hard for me to say, but I am glad he was there that day.” Claire smiled at Mr. Carson, “thank you for saying that, it means so much to me.” 

Dr. Berman asked, “You talked about attempted rape as standard harassment at your school. (pause) Do you think teachers might have helped you if they had known what happened? Mrs. Carson interrupted anxiously, “If this had happened to me, I know I could have gotten help. (1-minute pause) What was wrong with that school?  

Claire had liked her school. She didn’t think anything was wrong with it; it was just a typical school. Sure, she had been lonely, and sometimes bullied and harassed, but that was because she was one of those poor kids, the rejects of the school. No one really cared about this type of kid. “I always just thought of school as a good place for learning things. My teachers were nice to me in the classroom. (2-minute pause) But, they were never around outside of class. I mean they were never in the hallways or the lunchroom, or outside of school when we came and left. I guess I never considered it their job to watch out for me outside of class,” Claire said. 

“Of course it is their job to keep you safe Claire,” Mr. Carson spit out, “All adults are supposed to keep kids safe.” Claire looked back and forth between the two Carsons. “Maybe if I had been one of the popular kids, the teachers might have helped out,” Claire said slowly, “but I don’t know, they always seemed to rush from the building to their cars to go home.” 

“Claire, we have spent some time together talking about your parents, and how they didn’t know a thing about how to raise kids. One result of their neglect is that you didn’t recognize how much other adults, like your teachers also let you down. (2-minute pause) They didn’t recognize all your bumps and bruises as abuse.  They should have reported your parents to someone like Ms. Alexandra. They should have seen you were being bullied and harassed and tried to stop it.”  

Claire sighed, “I know you really believe that Dr. Berman. But, why should a teacher do all that much for me? Really, I am just not the kind of person that is worth the effort. (pause) I have told you before that I just believe the Carsons are my personal miracle- I know they care about me even though I don’t deserve it.”  

Mrs. Carson was calm again, with Mr. Carson’s arm around her. She emphatically declared, “Claire, you are not a waste of space. You never were; no matter how many times your mom said it. That school betrayed your trust. The staff and teachers should have made it a safe place! Dr. Berman was nodding and said, “when you go to a place that is supposed to be safe, like school, and the authorities don’t keep it safe, this is institutional betrayal.” 

Professor and author Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D.  first used the term “institutional betrayal” to discuss the harm caused to someone either because an institution did not set up a structure that would protect people from being victimized or did not take steps, after someone like Claire had been hurt, to properly investigate and take active steps to help the victim and prevent further victimizations. When schools don’t keep their hallways safe from different types of assault and harm to students, when the Church doesn’t protect altar boys from sexual abuse by Priests, when the police keep some neighborhoods safer than others, these are all examples of institutional betrayal. To prevent institutional betrayal, we all need to understand what it means and take proactive steps when necessary to make institutions develop new policies, procedures, and take actions to truly “serve and protect”. Consider learning more as a personal advocacy step by reading: