Ginny*, 13, held one of two new bunnies carefully in her hands. As her caregivers watched her gently handle the small animal, they saw a peace come over her face and tears well in her eyes.
“We have homes full of kiddos, but we also have land full of animals, too!” laughed Rick and Lisa Bursey, Back2Back staff. “We have a cage full of birds, we’re raising chickens, we’ve always had dogs, and we just got two new bunnies.”
Staff at a Back2Back-run children’s home know two things to be certain: animals are therapeutic and anytime a new child comes, they open up to the dogs before they open up to the humans. Ginny has been asking for a bunny for a long time, but was especially eager for one after experiencing conflict with another young lady in her home. The Bursey’s finally got two bunnies for the home, and they knew immediately they made the right decision when Ginny held the bunny kindly in her arms and laid down to look it in the eyes.
“She was immediately regulated with the bunny,” shared Lisa. “Her ability to just get on the animal’s level and allow herself to focus on it instead of the circumstances around her was remarkable to watch.” Ginny is known for being a tender-hearted girl to her caregivers and the children she lives with, and it gave everyone reprieve to see such serenity take over.
Staff love the responsibilities the animals teach each child at the home, but even more, they love the self-regulation tools each child is gaining simply by knowing they can go sit with a dog, or feed the chickens, or hold a bunny because it makes them feel better.
This is the power of trauma-informed caregivers, faithful sponsors, and prayer on behalf of vulnerable populations – we better understand what children from hard places need and facilitate healing as a result.