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Ending A Cycle Of Crisis: Anna’s Story

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Anna Kerr, 10, loves playing cards with her mother, although she can complain a bit when she loses. But her outbursts weren’t nearly as adorable two years ago.

“We had to call 911 several times,” her mother, Mary, said.

As an 8-year-old, Anna was a bundle of emotional trauma, exploding in bursts of violence.

“I was too wild,” Anna said, “I was cussing and kicking, and I was breaking tables.”

Her mother was usually the target, so they’d need to restrain her. She would kick and bite so hard, the family feared for their safety. They had her hospitalized four times for in-patient therapy.

“She missed all of the holidays in 2012,” Mary said. “I mean she missed Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” during her various hospital stays.

Anna’s parents expected some problems when they adopted her, because they knew her birth-mother used drugs during the pregnancy. Still, the rollercoaster of her mental health wore on everybody.

“She’d come home and be OK for a couple days,” said Jess Holly, a crisis stabilization therapist at Washburn Center for Children. “And then the same problems would happen. So the family was just stuck in this cycle of crisis.”

Jess Holly and Jennifer Miller Johnson handled her case, stepping in with the help the struggling family needed.

“I truly do not believe we’d be where we are today if not for Jess and Jen,” Mary said.

As case worker, Jennifer helped her change schools and set up home meetings with Jess, the crisis stabilization therapist who gave the girl and her family tools to manage her emotions.

“They worked with me and tried to help me reset more often,” Anna said.

“It was great because she wasn’t just working with Anna,” Mary said. “She was working with all of us.”

With their help, Anna is doing well at home and at her special needs school –where she won a spot on the student council — and gave Jess her student of the week award. But Mary knows her daughter will always need some help, which made a recent request so alarming.

“One morning, she looked at me and said Mommy, I want to go back to the hospital,” Mary said. “And I went, ‘what?’”

But there wasn’t any reason to worry. Anna just wanted to visit her old doctors and show them the progress she’d made.

“There were amazed,” Anna said proudly.

“I didn’t say a word,” Mary said. “I just stood back there when we saw the doctor and I just smiled.”

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