By Elizabeth Washington
Following the joys and challenges of raising their adopted daughters, good friends Jane Hansen and Jean Lucier are on a mission to support the emotional healing of foster and adoptive children. Many adopted children struggle with behavioral issues that require specialized therapeutic interventions. Healing Kids Hearts (HKH) is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides various services to improve the lives of foster and adopted children in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Their story began when both of these mothers experienced a lack of effective solutions when trying to help their daughters overcome the developmental trauma they experienced as young children. Jane’s daughter, Adriana, was adopted domestically from foster care, while Jean’s daughter, Alana, was adopted internationally. Both girls’ rough start severely affected their ability to self-regulate their behavior and form positive relationships. Although the two girls experienced many of the same struggles, their similarities did not end there. Both of them had found hope in an unlikely setting. It was with HORSES! The stable was a magical place for them, where their best friends and teachers were horses…and the barn was their classroom! As they both described it, they had found solace around horses, where they “could feel calm and at peace.” The barn had become a place of refuge and it was there that they thrived! Later, equine-assisted therapy was introduced which proved to be extremely successful! For children like Adriana and Alana, horse-assisted therapy has demonstrated remarkable results and transformations when compared to traditional therapies. One reason is that horses have the ability to reflect a child’s feelings back to them. Emotional expression is something that these children often find difficult to recognize. “Being in the presence of horses opens up a whole new world for them,” says Jean.
Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) involves a relationship between humans and horses. EAP can be a highly effective tool for children suffering from emotional or behavioral difficulties. Studies have shown that EAP can help children develop trust, self-awareness, communication, and problem-solving skills. It can also help children learn how to regulate their emotions, build relationships, and develop empathy. After witnessing firsthand the therapeutic benefits horses can provide, Jane and Jean along with their daughters, had to find a way to share what they found with others. They have decided to take action by procuring services to sponsor equine-assisted psychotherapy programs for foster and adopted kids in our local community.
In addition to this, Healing Kids Hearts is involved with several other projects to help these children. Jane has written the children’s book “My Forever Friendship Pony.” It’s a magical story that is especially suitable for children who have experienced any sort of loss in their lives. The book, partnered with a brand new stuffed pony, is made available by HKH to children that have experienced foster care and/or adoption. The book and stuffed ponies are also included in the PeacePlaces (a space created for a child to help them regulate and to call their own), which HKH gives to therapy departments at some local foster agencies.
To learn more about this and their organization or to find out how you can partner with Healing Kids Hearts, please visit Healingkidshearts.com. You can also find Healing Kids Hearts on Facebook and Instagram.