I was 11 years old when I came to Kurn Hattin. I still remember filling out paperwork. I wouldn’t have been able to experience the things I have without having gone to Kurn Hattin. I was able to play soccer, go horseback riding, and go skiing, which I loved.
My favorite classes were reading and writing—skills I never knew I had. My writing teacher told me “You have a skill for writing.” After that, I wrote all the time and asked her to check my work. She was always very encouraging, which brought up my self-esteem and helped me think, “I can do this.” I remember loving to write so much, I kept writing and still write. Teachers there made you feel you could keep going and not give up. They’d be right there with you. The support they showed is something I’ll never forget. Music was also an important part of my life at Kurn Hattin. I learned how to read music and I was in Select Choir, Jazz, and Concert Bands. I played the trumpet and still do.
I was held back at Kurn Hattin for a year before going to high school, which had a lot to do with my maturity level and readiness. And that was the right decision. Kurn Hattin coached me, prepared me and got me ready to leave, even though I didn’t want to. If I hadn’t been held back, I wouldn’t have been prepared whatsoever for high school.
When I left Kurn Hattin, I knew what I wanted to do for college. My home life was extremely challenging and when I returned from home visits, I had a very difficult time readjusting. But I had a counselor who was very supportive. After graduating from Kurn Hattin, I knew I didn’t want to live the life I was living and didn’t want others to live the life I had experienced. I wanted to help people and have them not go through what I did. If they did, I wanted to support them through it. That’s something I’ve really been passionate about.
Now at the O’Brien Center, an agency for substance misuse and mental health, I have a dual position as a case manager and outreach worker. It is part administrative but I also spend time with children, coaching them and helping them with their goals. I’ve found that most of the time, once you remove a child from a challenging household, the child’s problematic behaviors go away. When you spend time with a child, and listen to them, that is all that matters–which is huge!
I went to Kurn Hattin because my family couldn’t handle me. But there was a reason I was acting out. Being removed from the home and going to Kurn Hattin revealed the reasons affecting my behavior. That’s the back story of why I like doing the work I do. It’s very helpful in my work to have that insight.
Kurn Hattin changed me. The people there surrounded me, helped me, and shaped my future. They consistently demonstrated to me, as an adoptee, “I’m here for you, no matter what. We’re not leaving you. You’re not being sent away again. This is your home right now and we care about you.” Those were things I needed to hear. The routine and stability at Kurn Hattin were what I really needed. It was home for me.
Leaving was difficult. I wish I had gotten in sooner—in elementary school. That’s how much I loved going to Kurn Hattin. But I honestly would not have the social or coping skills, and be able do what I can do now, if I hadn’t gone to Kurn Hattin. I would have failed in middle school. Because Kurn Hattin was such a safe place, I was able to open up about things that were going on in my life. That enabled me to move on, grow, and be a better person.
Going forward, I plan on going back to school soon to get a degree in clinical work, work with music therapy, and become a therapist specializing in adoption. Adoption is very central in my life and since I’ve been through it, I want to help others.
~ Jennifer Filiault, Class of 2012