I received a referral about 7 months ago to do an intake on a 9-year-old child who had possibly been the victim of child abuse. I set an appointment and met with the biological mother, Chrystie, who was only 29, and the child who was the subject of the DHS investigation.
The family consisted of 5 children, a single mother and 3 fathers nowhere to be seen in the picture. At the time of the Intake, I was able to help get the children covered under insurance and signed up for counseling services, but there was no available help for their mother. DHS recommended parenting classes to teach Chrystie appropriate ways to discipline and be more compassionate with her children. Chrystie had been turned away from numerous places because she did not have the ability to pay for the classes and DHS had closed their investigation.
When I met Chrystie she was angry, frustrated and overwhelmed from years of experiencing her own trauma of being abused by her drug addicted parents. She had never processed this trauma and only knew one way to parent; an unhealthy way. Over the years, she resorted to substance abuse and “romantic” partners to help her cope with deep-seated depression, anxiety, chemical dependency and PTSD.
Chrystie was not equipped with the tools she needed to understand and process her Mental Health issues, and the men she sought comfort in did not have the capability to help her either. This resulted in years of untreated mental health challenges, a family struggling through poverty with no place to live and no hope of overcoming the circumstances, and 5 children who had been unfairly thrown into the situation.
Chrystie came to me on a day that she found out I was volunteering at a Social Services office and she fell to her knees, sobbing, in the waiting area. She cried to me, “Miss Tiffany, I have had to let someone else take Guardianship of my children. I know that I am messing up their lives and that I need help, but I do not know HOW to get better. I have tried the parenting classes and was turned away because the kids are not in my care right now.
I WANT to get better and be a good mom and make something better out of my life than what it has been but it’s been so hard and no one will help me learn how to be different! I do not want to hurt my kids. Please help me!” As a mother of 8, my heart broke for her and her 5 babies. This cycle of abuse, stemming from untreated Mental Health issues, is something we deal with daily in our offices. I helped her off the floor, took her into my office and began working as her Behavioral Health Case Manager.
Improving Lives provided Counseling, Case Management and Rehabilitation services for Chrystie and the results have been remarkable. Chrystie has completed her first set of parenting classes, has held full time employment for the previous 6 months, and has secured a stable home with bedrooms and beds for her children. She sees her children regularly and is on her way to being reunited with them in a healthy way.
I had the privilege of taking the stand in court to tell the Judge that this mother has gone the extra mile for her children and has progressed in a way that we could not have even imagined. I attended an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meeting with the family that included Chrystie, 6 teachers who refused to let her children fall through the cracks and Janette, who is Chrystie’s cousin that has taken Temporary Guardianship of her children as Chrystie gets back on her feet. Chrystie’s oldest child has done so well in school since beginning counseling services that her IEP level was reduced and, in the 8th grade, is beginning to acclimate to a regular classroom for the first time since Kindergarten.
I sat in my office working on the nonprofit program about a month ago and heard a knock on my door. It was the Chrystie. She threw her arms around my neck, tears in her eyes and said, “I just want you to say thank you. I just left counseling and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I never knew how much help I needed until this happened. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life, but now I am learning how to be the mother I always wanted to be. I’m being the mom that my kids deserve and I don’t need to try to have a man come in and rescue me because I am learning how to be a successful adult and parent with the resources you guys are teaching me. I finally am getting healing for myself and I never thought that would happen.”
THIS, my friends, is why we do what we do. THIS is why Improving Lives 501c3 needs your support. Not only has this mother found healing emotionally, but so have her children. It’s a continuous process and this family still has some things to overcome and work through, but the cycle of abuse is ending for them. These children have a shot at a happy, fulfilling life without any more abuse; it’s something every child deserves and should never have to ask for. Chrystie is proud of herself for the first time in her life and she is making an effort, not only in her family, but in contributing her community.