– Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
Broken Places explores why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive. By revisiting childhood trauma victims we profiled decades ago, we learn how their experiences shaped their lives as adults. Broken Places interweaves these longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few nationally renowned experts to help viewers better understand the devastating impact of childhood adversity as well as the inspiring characteristics of resilience.
Daniella Rin Hover has overcome countless difficulties throughout her life. She was featured in our 2004 documentary, AGING OUT, which chronicled the journey of three young people “aging out” of the foster care system. The film highlighted the financial, housing, legal, and emotional challenges these teens faced as they struggled to fend for themselves. Of the three subjects we profiled, Daniella is the sole survivor and dedicates her continued advocacy efforts to the two young people who tragically died shortly after the film was completed. When we first filmed Daniella 16 years ago, she was bouncing around the foster care system after being severely abused and neglected as a child.
While living in a group home, Daniella fell in love with Veasna Rin Hover, who also grew up in the foster care system after his parents were murdered in Cambodia. They had their first child while they were both still living in separate group homes. After leaving foster care, they got married and had a second child a few years later. When we revisit Daniella after 16 years, we learn that Veasna began to repeat a deeply entrenched pattern of abuse, forcing Daniella to run away with her kids to a domestic violence shelter. Despite the enormous obstacles she continues to face, Daniella currently facilitates Wellness Workshops for Weight Watchers. Legally separated, she is currently raising her 14-year-old daughter Skye, who is attending a prestigious specialized high school in New York City.
We profiled Bobby Gross – aka Storm – in our 1988 film, OUR CHILDREN AT RISK, when he was an angry 5-year-old growing up in extreme poverty. His 21-year old mother, Yvonne, was struggling with depression and was so overwhelmed trying to raise 5 children under the age of 6 that she was unable to offer her children the kind of attention that they sorely needed. Bobby was showing alarming signs of aggressive anti-social behavior at home and was failing in school. We filmed him being examined by one of the nation’s most renowned pediatricians, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, who painted a bleak future for Bobby in the absence of sustained early intervention.
Dr. Brazelton’s prediction turned out to be eerily prescient when we revisited Bobby three decades later. We learn that he ended up spending his teenage years in and out of mental institutions and his twenties in and out of prison. He briefly married and had a son, but the authorities terminated his parental rights and placed his son in foster care after Bobby was incarcerated multiple times for abusing his wife and child. At age 35, Bobby’s sole source of support is social security disability.
Danny and Raymond Jacob were the principal subjects in our Academy Award-nominated film WHY CAN’T WE BE A FAMILY AGAIN. They were abandoned at a young age by their mother when she became addicted to crack cocaine. The boys, who never knew their fathers, were raised by their grandmother, Erslena. The story of Danny and Raymond illustrates how early childhood adversity impacts kids differently.
Danny, the older brother, graduated from high school and attended college. He currently hosts a radio talk show and coaches a basketball team for at-risk youth. His younger brother, Raymond, became his assistant coach, but he had a much harder time overcoming the traumatic experience of being abandoned by his mother at a young age. He began having hallucinations in his teens and suffered a mental breakdown. He was hospitalized over a dozen times, received a diagnosis of manic depression, and currently draws social security disability.