Tommy is a shy, quiet boy with big soulful eyes. He came to ChildSafe with his mother and sister because of some hard things happening in his family. Tommy’s father battered his mother in front of him, and sexually abused his sister. But at 6 years old, Tommy doesn’t understand what that means or why he doesn’t get to see his dad anymore. He is afraid of his dad, but also misses those times when he would play trucks with him on the floor and tickle him and call him his “big boy”.
Tommy’s first day at ChildSafe was frightening for him. He had been to other buildings where grownups asked him questions about his family and his dad. Everyone looked very worried and this scared Tommy. He thought ChildSafe was going to be like that. Instead, Tommy was greeted by his friendly play therapist and Chester, our therapy dog. Tommy doesn’t trust people easily, and he was at first scared that his therapist was going to ask him a lot of questions, but when he saw Chester, it was love at first sight! His therapist let Tommy lead Chester’s leash to the play therapy room and on nice days, they took Chester for walks. Tommy slowly began to thaw and started to come out of his shell. He wanted Chester to be part of his play, including dressing him in a superhero cape, and covering him with blankets! Chester was a good sport and seemed to sense when Tommy needed him to be close. Sometimes Tommy talks directly to Chester, telling him about some of the scary things that happened to him, but mostly Chester is there to support Tommy when he becomes upset, and helps him to feel safe enough to express his feelings.
Tommy is one of many children who come to ChildSafe and learn to trust again and experience the world as a safe place. They don’t know that their nervous systems are learning to calm, their brains are rewiring, and they’re moving out of their trauma responses. They just think they’re coming to play with their human and dog friend, and that they feel better when they leave. That’s the magic of ChildSafe.