Success Story: Franny

When Franny was 14 years old, her mental health took a nosedive due to problems at home. After witnessing her father breaking the law, she made the difficult decision to call the police, which resulted in her father being deported. She says her stepmother and half-siblings were furious.

“My family was mad at me for what I did, and I lost it and acted out. I was very suicidal. I was only 14, and I didn’t know how to handle my emotions,” remembers Franny, who eventually ran away from home and ended up in foster care. “I had to go to a mental hospital. And then I was sent to Grafton.”

When she first arrived at the psychiatric residential treatment center in Berryville in 2014, she felt out of place. Some of the students had more pronounced behavioral issues coupled with intellectual disabilities, and she felt like she didn’t belong there. “It was a weird situation. It scared me straight for a bit,” says Franny.

Eager to be discharged, she played the role of model patient and student. Seeing no adverse behaviors after a month of residential care, Grafton recommended that she try moving back in with her foster family. But shortly after leaving, her negative behaviors returned, and she was readmitted at Berryville.

During her second stay, which lasted 1.5 years, she gave on up playing the perfect client. At first, she was belligerent and even tried to jump the fence. “I was not myself,” remembers Franny. “But after staying there for a while, I got comfortable.”

The first thing she began noticing was the authenticity of the teachers, therapists, and DSPs. “The majority of the staff really connected with the kids and actually built relationships with them. They really liked their jobs and genuinely wanted to help and give advice. It was more than just a paycheck to them,” says Franny, who connected with some of her favorite Grafton employees on Facebook when she turned 18.

Another thing that helped her progress was the opportunity to be active at Grafton. She realized that her impulse to run away had been, at least in part, about releasing pent up energy and emotions. Once the staff realized this, they gave her extra time in the gym or on the field to release her excess energy. On select Friday and Saturday nights, the well-behaved kids had the opportunity to play a game of kickball, which became one of her favorite ways to unplug. She also joined Grafton’s basketball team.

Franny looked forward to off-campus trips, which motivated her to behave better. She would go to basketball games, mall outings, and church—which she loves. On campus, she especially enjoyed dog therapy. “I’m a huge animal lover. It didn’t even feel like therapy. Loving on the dogs was just really fun for me.”

Shortly before being discharged at 16, Franny told her therapist she would miss being at Grafton. She had come to appreciate the regular schedule, stability, and relationships she built at Berryville. “That’s when they knew it was time for me to get out in the real world, because I was a lot more stable. I never thought I would get to the point of wanting to stay.”

Today, Franny is a 22-year-old senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she’s working towards a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Homeland Security. Her dream job is to work for the FBI’s Victim Assistance Unit, which identifies and assists people who have been negatively impacted by crimes. She’s been living happily with her fifth and final foster family, who formally adopted her at age 18.

She credits her success to God, her own determination, the people who understood her at Grafton, and the support of her adoptive family. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink—it’s the same concept with human beings. Grafton gave me all the resources, but ultimately it was up to me to change and take a different route in life.”