Since 2007, I have worked as a recovery coach in Ohio. I cheerlead people in early recovery to get through the scary stuff—usually the first 60 days of being clean. Through the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, I also train social workers, caseworkers and treatment professionals.
In 2003, I lost custody of my daughter, got pregnant, and ended up voluntarily terminating my rights to the baby. What I know now is very different from what I knew going through the system. I’m very passionate that other women don’t have to go through this alone.
I came across Rise when a treatment center asked me to train foster parents. I was a little intimidated by that. As an addicted mother—well, foster parents don’t like us very much. I was looking for information that would deliver an impact and help foster parents change their minds about parents in child welfare. I found Rise online and I thought, “Holy crap! This is so different! It’s not a bunch of academics and professionals. This is written by real people whose kids have been in foster care.” I went through the whole archive over the next couple of weeks.
I can’t say how many times I tell people to go to the Rise website. I tell parents, “When you’re frustrated, open this website. It helps people connect.”
When I train foster parents, I show them the issue on relationships with foster parents. It gives parents some good information on how to work with the families that are caring for their kids, and it shows foster families what that’s like for parents. I say, “Hey, this is what the moms are going through. They really do want to get their kids back, but it’s incredibly complicated.”
Parents don’t just have child welfare cases to deal with. We have trauma histories, we have the correctional system, we have the mental health system, we have financial issues, housing. People forget that navigating each of those systems independently is complex, and we are trying to navigate all of them at the same time on a really restricted timeline. It’s very difficult for parents to succeed.
I loved the parenting from prison issue, the issue on making the most of visits, and the issue on the impact of trauma on parenting. Trauma is the root cause for so many of us. When I relapsed, I knew intellectually that my child was not safe and that I needed to get clean. But when I buckled my daughter into her car seat and my kids rode out of my driveway to someone else’s house, I was just sitting there with a physical pain in my chest. The only thing I knew to do was to numb myself with drugs. Making my situation worse was the only solution I could come up with.
I would like to see all judges and lawmakers reading Rise. They’re the ones who make the decisions, rules and timelines, and I haven’t met too many of them who understand the intricate details of what it takes to navigate a child welfare case and how it feels to be a parent. Our entire lives are dictated by the hoops we have to jump through, and if we don’t navigate successfully, our lives are forever changed.
It’s easy to hate addicted mothers, but there’s a human inside the addict. A lot of us feel so unworthy so we don’t believe that anybody would want to help us and we burn up our entire timeline not believing in ourselves.
One story that helped me was in the issue on termination of parental rights. The mom and her daughter kept trying to connect despite termination. I have an open adoption with my first son, but there were years that I didn’t hear from him and I wanted that connection. When I read that story, I said to myself, “Be a good mom and a good person. That’s what you can do. If your son comes back to you, you’ll be somebody he’s proud of.”