Dawson in his family's yard. At six years old, half his life has been spent here, on the Webb family farm. The first half, though, was filled with abuse that still haunts him.
Laura Webb looks at her foster son Dawson while his brother Alex plays on the chair in the family’s kitchen. According to Laura, Alex never runs out of energy. Dawson, on the other hand, has a tendency to be whiney or moody, Laura said. Both test her patience. “Alex is always going, but Dawson is a different kind of stress.”
Dawson cries in his bed, as common with bedtime. Laura says that the calmness of the ritual throws Dawson into a state of chaos. Due to PTSD, Dawson operates at a higher level of stress, which causes him to react poorly to quiet, Laura says.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is is a mental health disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. It is estimated that 5% of adolescents that have been in foster care have met criteria for PTSD in their lifetime. There are no definitive studies on a younger population.
Laura reaches to brush Dawson's hair as they wait for the bus the morning of a court date. Unknown to Dawson, his Laura and Dewayne would soon leave for a court appointment regarding the adoption of him and his brother. After three years of foster care, the court system changed the goal of the boys’ case to adoption and decided to begin the process of terminating parental rights.
Dawson swings, like Superman, he says, in his backyard. His foster mother Laura says that expelling his energy outdoors has been one of the most effective ways of managing his PTSD. Because of this, in the summer months, Laura says that his behavior is significantly better than in the winter.
Laura, Dawson, and Alex feed the family chickens together before Dawson goes school.
Dawson peers out the window as his family plays outside. Due to his RAD, Dawson is often detached social situations, even in his own home.
Dawson with his younger brother Alex. Though Alex’s physical and mental health has not been as much of a struggle, according to Laura, Alex still sees 5 health specialists and was recently diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Dewayne struggles to get both brothers into bed as Alex jumps and Dawson cries on their couch.
Dawson cuddles his cat, one of many family pets, in the floor of his living room. His foster parents, Laura and Dewayne, have chickens, dogs, cats, and one donkey. “We just want to teach the boys how to care for things the right way,” Laura said when asked why they had so many animals. Pets have always been important to the Webb family. When their dog of many years, Leo, died recently, Laura said that Dawson learned about death for the first time. “I took him to the cemetery and explained that that’s where Leo would stay, that he wasn’t coming back,” Laura said.
Dressed as a ghostbuster, Dawson looks around while trick-or-treating with his family. Due to his RAD, he does not always preform well in social situations and often seems withdrawn. “To help him socially, we make sure to get him in the community. We go to Sunday School every week so he meets kids his age and do other stuff when we can.”
Laura massages Dawson's head in their kitchen.
Laura and Dawson sit together on the porch. Laura says that their relationship is far different than her relationships with her other children. "Goodnight kisses are rare," she said.
Dawson looks towards the sky after a Sunday afternoon of being with his family. Since the court date in October, his mother does feel some hope for permanence and stability. Though she says there is no “magic wand” to learn about how to deal with Dawson’s trauma, they are learning together. “I guess we’ll be working at this for the rest of our lives, but I least I can be be sure it’ll us together.”