heart breaking, tragic, with conflicting details, many unknowns and doubts...or all of the above. Here's the story of the upward climb in "rehabilitating" one from the street.
Gladis started off life on the streets of Cochabamba with her a teen mother. Around the time she was 2 1/2 years old, a concerned street kid worker was worried enough for her safety and development to report the mother’s irresponsible behavior to the government. In a police raid in August 2007, Gladis (along with other children) was removed from the dirty canal where she lived with other street kid “families” and dogs. She was first sent to a temporary shelter for street girls. Then a few months later, at the request of several people and organizations, was transferred her to Casa de Amor to be able to better coordinate how we should proceed with Gladis and her mother in the future.
Our challenge was to provide Gladis with the right environment and training where she could learn to be a child again, without worrying about survival or acting like a teenager. She arrived with many irrational fears, such as screaming and getting very upset to look outside the window at night, very strong fear of fires, and awaking with night terrors. Her “games” were escaping from robbers who wanted to kill her, and others that scared the other children. There were also signs of an attachment disorder, with difficult behavior such as seeming to get pleasure from the sight of blood (hurting either herself or unsuspecting, even sleeping, babies). And most concerning of all to us was her behavior with the other little boys of the house, doing all she could to get them off alone with her or in her bed, along with other actions I won’t put here.
Everyone falls in love with Gladis quickly though, the Alseth family being no exception. Knowing of all the challenges we’d had with her, they specifically requested that she be the first “candidate” to move into their family style home, Casa de Amor III. She has thrived under their watchful care and constant re-training! It was a very long road the first months as she woke up screaming every single night and as they worked through her other difficulties.
Now she is a completely different child! Still very spunky, strong-willed, and independent, but with a new level of self-control and love for herself and thus others. She enjoys an international fan club of volunteers from around the world who knew her from her street days and occasionally stop into to visit her.
Gladis has also lost many of her teeth, including going under anesthesia for several hours to remove the worst, but at least now she doesn't have constant infections! She does have a cute lisp though.
A little about Gladis, from her sponsorship packet: Gladis loves God and likes to worship Him with her own made up songs and dancing. Her favorite things to do are dance, sing, and stand in the corner. We are working on teaching her preschool and computer skills, that she isn't an adult "quite" yet, what God is like, and how to demonstrate love to other people. She thrives on any kind of attention and soaks it up like a dry sponge.
Since Gladis’ time with us at Casa de Amor, her mother has not tried to reclaim her daughter nor visit her. In August last year, her mother’s new baby—Gladis’ half sister—died in the same street canal. Our baby Gabriela is actually buried right
next to her in the cemetery. Gladis has been assigned an international adoptive family and we just await their arrival sometime this year.
(Update since writing this: her new parents will arrive at the end of May!! We are so excited for them and for "Gladis".)
*name has been changed
Pictures from top to bottom:
1) Gladis on the street
2) Her first days with us
3) Gladis LOVES babies (this was the first picture I took of baby Elias in the Baby Home)
4) At her 4th birthday party