When you stand with the youth and families of South King County, stories like this happen:

Christmas of 2012, Elizabeth’s mother dropped her off at our house for what would be her first, real family Christmas.

Elizabeth was 12 years old.

We hadn’t seen or heard from either of them in about 6 years. Little did we know then, but Elizabeth’s mom was dealing with issues in her own life. Battling her own demons, she did not come back for her daughter. Shocked and filled with a sense of responsibility, we contacted and worked with Child Protective Services in an effort to gain legal custody of her. As we celebrated this victory, we learned of her mother’s passing.

Life for Elizabeth was only getting harder.

She became very quiet. Words were hard to come by and even harder for her to find. She fully understood the words spoken to her, but trauma left her non-verbal. Understandably so, she was very withdrawn and angry. Her motivation was low. The energy to accomplish simple tasks like taking a shower or brushing her hair/teeth was gone.

The neglect was evident.

Growing more and more concerned, we took her to a local children’s hospital. We went for an evaluation to see, if perhaps she registered on the autism spectrum. They were unable to diagnose her with anything definitive. We were simply told she would never be able to take care of herself and she would always need to live in a group environment.

We were devastated.

Our resolve kicked into overdrive. This couldn’t be the final answer. We knew we needed extra support. 3 years ago, we turned to Kent Youth and Family Services. The treatment she received and is still getting has been wonderful for her.

You would not even believe this was the same girl.

She has come a tremendous way. She is totally engaged in school racking up A’s and B’s in her core classes. She washes her own clothes, is learning to cook and has no problems showering and grooming. She has made friends and dreams of going to college someday. With the help of family, friends and the therapists at Kent Youth and Family Services, she now has the power to conquer the world. If she sets her mind on it, she can accomplish it.

There is still work to do.

I have learned to not take the first answer given when working with special needs children. She is such a treasure and will go on to have a great life. You never know what a child is capable of becoming when there is a loving support system of family. And you should never be afraid to seek the help of a therapist. They have helped me better understand Elizabeth’s needs. Without them there from the beginning, I don’t know where we would be.

Thank you, Kent Youth and Family Services

So, “Stand with Me” by donating on behalf of South King County’s youth and families. 


Wishing You and Yours a Happy and Hope Filled New Year,


-Mike Heinisch, KYFS Executive Director