I grew up in foster care, and so did my 8 kids.
This story might seem like “just another story” of hardship within foster care, and although this story is plagued with tragedy and sadness… I’ll spoil the ending for you… Today I have my kids back and I am here to tell you that there is hope for mothers who have been addicted to drugs.
Growing up my mother was a severe alcoholic and drank heavily throughout her pregnancy with me. She was mentally, emotionally and physically abusive and would bring men over to our home and they would molest me. When I was in the 4th grade I just couldn’t handle it anymore, so I called social services on my mom and asked them to come and get me.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, history seemed to be repeating itself. I was addicted to drugs due to the abuse I experienced while growing up. I couldn’t imagine this life for my kids, yet somehow, I ended up in a domestic violence relationship that led to my kids being removed from our home and being placed into the foster care system. My 8 children, who are twin 11 year olds, a 12 year old girl, 14 year old boy, 16 year old girl, 18 year old boy, 20 year old girl and a 22 year old boy, entered foster care 11 years ago for the first time.
I knew I wanted, no I needed, to do the right thing, I just didn’t know what the “right” thing to do was. Trying to handle life on my own seemed like an impossible task with the weight I was carrying from my past and the guilt I was feeling as a parent. I reached out to social services to ask for help and they put me in a treatment facility, however, since my premature newborn twins kept getting sick, I was unable to complete the treatment the department put me in. Because I had no family to take care of the twins while I finished the program, we ended up going into emergency housing where we lived for about a year in half. Shortly after that, the father of my kids came back into my life which sent me spiraling back into my old ways and I started using again. This brought about a lot of fighting, and I was getting many CPS reports on me. Again, I really wanted to do the right thing, for myself and my kids, I just didn’t know how. I would try to go to church and make the right decisions, but nothing seemed to be working.
I made the incredibly hard decision to leave my ex. Even though it was an unhealthy relationship, he was the most stable person in my life and because I didn’t have family, in my mind I thought that I was supposed to keep us together. I met my late husband Gus after leaving my ex, and well, Gus was an incredible person. He was trustworthy, which was something I had never experienced in a relationship before. Gus was an important person in my children’s and my life because he showed me things that I was never taught before. He showed me how to care for kids, like playing outside with them and how to nurture them.
About a year into my relationship with Gus, my kids were removed again by CPS, but this time Gus was the one who called CPS on me because I kept leaving to go use drugs. I went into a 90 day treatment program and completed it. I also started family therapy and was on track to reunify with my kids. Everything seemed to be working out until one morning, Gus had a stroke at our kitchen table and died. I tried my best to keep things together but I was so sad and depressed and with no support, I couldn’t keep my sobriety and I relapsed. I went straight to the department and told them that I wasn’t clean and because of this my kids were re-removed and a new case was opened.
When my children went into long term foster care, I had a conversation with God and told him I was done and didn’t want to live anymore. I thought for a little while and honestly began to believe that my kids were better off without me. I really felt like I was giving 100% of myself and still wasn’t capable of doing it. Despite relapse after relapse, there was still something inside of me that wouldn’t let me give up on myself. Through all of this I gained a greater trust in God and asked him to show me a different way. This lead me to a place called Rescue the Children, and they were able to get me into their program the day I called.
When my mentor Whitney Bunker came into my life and believed in me, she gave me the hope and encouragement I desperately needed. The fact that she listened and cared was so important. She didn’t see me the way everyone else saw me. Other people would look at me and say things like ‘You’re the addicted mother’ or ‘You aren’t telling the truth’ all the while Whitney stood by my side and really fought to support my family and what was best for all of us. The world need’s more Whitney’s. Bio parent’s need more Whitney’s. If parent’s had the support and encouragement I received from Whitney, I think more children would be back with their families. If you choose to bring a bio family into your life, be genuine and reach out with an opportunity to learn a new way of life. Be open with them and bring them fully in. Model how to parent and deal with hard emotions. Be a good listener and try not to judge them.
People always assume that it is impossible for addicted moms to start a new life. Going through what I went through, my life is a testimony that proves this false. After being separated from my kids on and off for 6 years, I am back together with them. I want to be a voice that advocates for moms and tells them “You can start over!”