Tito and Lee’s Story
The Healing Tree
Childhood is a time of laughter, learning and love. But not for all children. The sad reality is that nearly 5 kids die every day from abuse and neglect. For survivors of physical or sexual abuse, the abuse is traumatizing and can haunt them into their adult lives if not properly treated.
Funded by a United Way grant, the Healing Tree is a program of the Howard Philips Center for Children and Families that offers counseling, not just for abused children, but their families and guardians as well. With a staff of highly-trained counselors, victims can begin the journey of healing and processing so they can go back to doing what they should have been doing all along: being a kid.
Brothers Tito and Lee*
Moving to a new country is stressful between learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and starting a new life. But for young Tito and Lee, it meant a new family and new hope. As small children, they had been abandoned by their parents to fend for themselves on the streets in Central America. Though they were taken into an orphanage, things did not improve as their caretakers turned into new abusers. When they were told they’d be moving to the United States to be with a family who wanted them, the brothers were excited to see their lives changing for the better.
But they were wrong.
Once stateside, the family that took them in began a new cycle of sexual abuse. Though those caretakers were arrested, the brothers had become hardened by their upbringing and felt no hope when they were placed with the Smith family, assuming it would simply be another guardian to hurt and abandon them.
The Smiths were a young couple, married for just over a year, who were determined to find help for their new family and give their new sons a healthy, normal childhood. Luckily, they were referred to the Healing Tree where they began to meet with therapist Jim. With his patient help and guidance along with committed parents, the boys were able to process their past traumas and are now thriving. Tito and Lee now proudly call the Smiths mom and dad, work hard to excel at school and Tito plans on asking a special girl out on a first date soon.
Your Dollars at Work
With the help of United Way’s funding, the Healing Tree staff never turns away a client for an inability to pay. In fact, there is no wait list for new clients so children and families can get the help they need immediately. Every kid deserves to feel safe, secure and loved. Together, we will fight for every child in Central Florida to not be labeled as a victim of abuse, but given the opportunity to move past it and have a healthy, happy life.
With your contribution to Heart of Florida United Way, we will continue to fund programs like this and many more.
* Names were changed in order to protect client privacy.