September, 22 2017
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Kids call her 'Mom'; parents call her a blessing
Nancy Thomas never turns her back on a child.
As a therapeutic parenting specialist and foster mom to severely emotionally disturbed children - most who have killed - Thomas knows the consequences.
"I've had kids pull knives on me," she said. "At first they wanted to kill me and they hated my guts because I love them so much. They wanted to be in control."
Thomas, who began professionally speaking and consulting with TROUBLED kids and parents in 1986, has hosted more than 100 children in her home near west Elk Creek. She has been "Mom" to kids with attention deficit, attachment and bipolar disorders, as well as Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes. She has an 85 percent success rate with those in her care.
"I offer the same thing to every child and some of them take it, and some of them don't," said Thomas, founder and chairperson of SAVY Inc., a foundation to help stop America's violent youth. "To me, it's more exciting than winning the lottery to see a child open up."
Starting at square one
The birth mother of three children, Thomas' life calling to HELP children in need began with a simple visit to a friend who was fostering a TROUBLED young man.
"She took in a boy from Father Flanagan's School who had stabbed another kid. He was kind of a neo-Nazi 13-year-old. He was cold and scary and when he looked at me, I thought 'This kid wants to kill me,' " she said. "About a year later, I stopped by the house and he asked me if I wanted to come in and offered me something to drink. I was thinking 'Oh no, Drain-o in the tea.' I accepted it but didn't drink it."
Thomas soon learned that the boy had experienced a successful healing process. He offered to clean her car in hopes of one day detailing automobiles as a business and would not accept money in return.
"I went home wondering, 'What did she do?' I was up all night pacing the floor. I decided to sit on her couch and watch, with my mouth wide open, how she was a therapeutic foster mom," she said. "I watched as eight little kids were playing nice and doing their chores. She was a very strong leader, commanded respect, but also she loved and hugged the kids all day long. That built who the kids were. Our children need a no-nonsense approach but they also need to be told they can be winners so they can heal."
Bringing it to the table
When Thomas, who has been married to her husband, Jerry, for 30 years, first suggested fostering a TROUBLED child to her family, the concept was accepted based on a simple goal.
"We all talked about it and decided that if everyone in the world would help one child, the world would be a better place," she said. "When you watch one heal, you want to do it again."
Today, Thomas no longer serves as a foster mom. The author of two books and producer of videos and workshops, she travels the Unites States and the world to countries such as Australia, Canada, England, China, Japan, and Romania to help high-risk children and parents. Her next stop: Calcutta, India, to Mother Teresa's orphanage.
"I will be teaching the staff how to be more effective in prevention work with TROUBLED kids. I'll also teach them how to transfer the bond when a child is adopted," she said. "A lot of the children are beaten with sticks because that's how they discipline."
Thomas said she hopes to be as well-received in India as she was in Romania, where abandoned and homeless children live and die in the sewers each day.
"I taught in Bucharest and visited with families and orphanage staffs. There were people in my training for only a week who met me at my plane at the airport to thank me. I was so broken-hearted to see children living in the sewers with the cockroaches. I can't help all the children and the families in the world."
Making a difference
Much of Thomas' work has been centered on intensive therapeutic therapy for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a condition she said is often misdiagnosed. The disorder involves children who have suffered pain, sorrow and loss from abuse, neglect and abandonment in the first three years of their lives.
"She's made a major impact on getting the word out on attachment disorder," said Paula Goodro who facilitates Powerful Parenting, a one- and two-week intensive treatment for TROUBLED families in Hartsel. "She is like this boundless force of energy. There is so much exuberance in her and she is such a blessing to the attachment community. She is a blessing to the children."
Any of the foster children who call her "Mom" can attest to that.
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