Inspirational Stories Archive


"They told me it would make a big difference in my life. I have been trying really hard because I want to graduate with the other seniors. So I am going to day school and night school to make sure that I will have all the credits I need in order to graduate on time. I am also taking college prep classes too! I have become an A student now and I sure an looking forward to going to my senior prom and wearing my cap and gown on graduation day."


He had been waiting for this opportunity for years! He has never had contact with his father and while in North Carolina learned that he is in the military living in Alaska. James hopes one day to be able to meet him. James is a good high school student and is involved in the ROTC program there. After high school he plans on joining the military.


As his court date approached Miguel was anxious and he checked a re-checked with his probation officer to see if he was recommending his release and every time his probation officer assured him that he was. So, on the day Miguel went to court he had said all of his goodbyes to staff and peers and he was carrying his suitcase full of the belongings he had accumulated in six months. By the time his court date came around he had earned a phenomenal 40 high school credits, quit smoking marijuana, clean drug test, and he had bonded with one of the child care staff -- something Miguel tells us is unheard of for him.

The staff found it bitter sweet to see him go but we all cheered him on and wished him nothing but the best. So, imagine our surprise when Miguel came back that afternoon. The judge had decided, for reasons only he knows, that he was not impressed (his words) with Miguel’s program and he told him he was going to have to stay 6 more months, with a 3 month check in. Miguel was devastated.

Miguel considered AWOL’ing, but instead used the coping skills he learned at Ettie Lee and came to the conclusion that if he did, his mom, who has serious health issues, would be badly hurt, and when he got caught he quite possibly would be sent to the Californian Youth Authority for many more months. He used additional coping skills that allowed him to tolerate the disappointment and to accept his circumstances.

Miguel is back for at least 3 months and he has an excellent attitude. For now he is focusing on his school work and getting all of the high school credits he can so when he is released he will be on track to graduate high school.

This week Miguel applied to be a graduate level resident at Diamond L Ranch which is a position of leadership and role modeling at the home. Six months ago Miguel would have ridiculed and scorned this idea. Although not chosen to take on this role at this time, Miguel cheerfully accepted to take on a few milestones before he is ready to take on this level of responsibility. But more importantly, Miguel was able to manage the anger that has always come with life’s disappointments.


Frank came into Ettie Lee's Robertson Memorial Home in May because his father, who loves him very much, had no idea how to deal with his son's chronic negative behavior. And from the onset it seem as though Frank, 17, did not want to change the behavior that led him to Ettie Lee.

Frank struggled with marijuana use, compulsive lying, stealing and fighting. The staff at Ettie Lee attempted to enroll Frank in Ettie Lee's Charter School, but he was in two fights in the first two days of class. He was then enrolled in our local public school where he was suspended for three days on his first day of class. Frank was constantly struggling with other peers in the home as well.

Through consistent accountability and a great deal of family therapy, individual therapy, and staff support, Frank slowly began to open up and turn his behavior around. Frank cam from a very impoverished family and went without for most of his life. Many of his compulsive behaviors were based on survival instincts. The more Ettie Lee staffers helped Frank feel safe, supported and provided for, his negative behaviors decreased. The staff insisted Frank take responsibility for his actions and strive to make amends with his peers. He began to develop positive relationships. In July (2009), his behavior had improved so much he was once again able to attend Ettie Lee's Charter School. He has since received his first high school credits. Frank also earned his own room at the Robertson Memorial Home and stated so proudly that this was the first time he had ever had his own bedroom. He also takes pride in assisting our maintenance staff with such projects as painting, gardening and cleaning the rain gutters.

Since his initial placement into our care, Frank has had a lot of other "firsts" such as: going to the mall, receiving a birthday cake and having people sing Happy Birthday to him, dress clothes and nice shoes, and receiving his very own hand-made quilt.

Frank has come a long way. Frank has been able to experience feeling safe and being cared for and has learned to take responsibility for himself and his actions. Initially Frank would respond with "I didn't do it, it wasn't me!" This occurred even if he did something right in front of you. Now Frank states, "My Bad!" and searches for ways to correct his behavior. Frank still struggles but has learned quite a few coping skills while he has been with us and is making great strides in working his program.

"I'm going to use my wise-mind skills" (language used in Ettie Lee treatment plan) and "I'm a man, I don't need to participate in childish behavior."

The Robertson Memorial Home staff have laughed, cried, and supported Frank through a lot of ups and downs but are all very proud of the accomplishments Frank has made.


Erik describes the freefall as a combination of feeling alienated from his classmates, feeling overwhelmed by numerous authorities so he resorted to self-soothing behavior through marijuana use. After a positive drug test, Erik was referred to Ettie Lee. Erik was released on June 2, 2009 after completing approximately five drug-free months of treatment at Ettie Lee’s home. Ettie Lee’s After-Care program continued with Erik after completing our program. A therapist regularly met and talked with Erik after he went home. After about three weeks, however, he no longer came to the meetings and stopped returning phone calls. The After-Care team continually tried to contact him, but knowing Erik, the team suspected that such a sudden break of communication meant a relapse for Erik.

Shortly after the team closed out the treatment plan at 30 days, as per DMH (Department of Mental Health) guidelines, Erik’s mother called and, as suspected, Erik had relapsed and was no longer responding to his mother’s house rules. After the therapist had several family meetings without Erik, Erik finally called. He said he saw all of the phone messages from the therapist that his mother had placed on refrigerator and that each time he saw those messages, he “felt a shot to his heart.” Erik is now back in an independent study school, still struggling with his sobriety, but keeps regular contact with Ettie Lee’s therapist including twice weekly meetings.


At the time of his placement, Robert was also having trouble with his family relationships, choosing negative peers and high-risk behaviors. Robert also had trouble with following rules. To make matters worse, Robert also suffered from a severe acne problem which was causing him to fight with his peers because of the teasing that he received. Needless to say, he was having a difficulty making friends.

As he became adjusted to living away from his family in one of our Ettie Lee homes, Robert slowly became motivated to improve his behavior and responded well to all staff members. He was given a variety of services, individual and family counseling, skills to manage his emotions, tutoring and medical help for his skin. Each month we saw progress and so did he. He showed improvement in his behaviors and adjusted very well with the other boys.

Robert's reunification with his family took place in June 2009. He lives with his mother and his two siblings and also spends time with his father and step-mother. Since he has been back at home, Ettie Lee's After-Care Program staff have continued to assist him. Robert needed to complete the community service hours he started doing while at our Ettie Lee home. Working with the After-Care team, he chose a graffiti removal service. In less than two weeks he completed nearly 60 hours of community service. Additionally, the After-Care team has also helped Robert, who was reluctant at first, to get involved in a summer reading activity program sponsored by his local library. With encouragement he has found books that are tools for a better future.

When he is home, Robert tends to his chores without needing adult direction. From laundry to preparing a meal, Robert is no longer having difficulty with taking on responsibility. During the summer he joined a local youth activity center which he attends five days per week, and Robert is getting ready to start school. He would like to do well in school and is motivated to become a better reader. Robert will sign up for a tutoring program which focuses on reading proficiency.


Additionally he needed to make up school credits. He had a choice. Ettie Lee staff would be there to support him if he was willing to do the hard work it would take for him to change his life.

During his time with Ettie Lee Brian he took part in more than 72 drug and alcohol sessions and had more than 35 individual and family therapy sessions. He attended school daily and stayed drug free. While in placement, Brian’s best friend died from a gunshot wound. Brian remarked that, “That could have been me because we were always hanging out together.” Prior to leaving Ettie Lee, Brian’s family moved to a safer neighborhood. There, Brian is reported to be happy, drug free, in school and getting acclimated in his new neighborhood.