I was angry at the world when CPS took my daughters Melanie, 8 months, and Amaya, 1 week old. I’d always wanted to avoid my kids going into foster care because my brother and I were raised in care.
But it was a struggle being 21 with two kids and no support. My relationship with their father was abusive and I was broke and homeless, sleeping in the streets. I robbed stores to buy pampers, milk and clothes.
It was stressful. I was hungry and depressed all the time.
I was also upset that my family was calling CPS, claiming that I was going to hurt my kids. In one report, my cousin claimed she heard me say that I would jump o a bridge with my kids.
It was frustrating. I confided in my family and turned to them for help, but they just kept calling CPS until my kids were placed with my aunt, and I was taken for mental health observation.
A LIFETIME OF DISORDER
I’d spent time in a mental hospital as a child after being diagnosed with personality and mood disorders. My behavior was erratic because I was always off and on with my meds and therapy. By the time I aged out of foster care I was out on the streets, stealing, fighting and getting high.
I was doing the same things when I had my daughters. My family decided to take my kids because they didn’t know what I was capable of.
ANGER AND PAIN KEPT ME AWAY
I was so angry that people believed I was capable of hurting my kids that I didn’t want to hear what anyone in the system had to say. The first time I went to court I screamed at the worker, telling her that they use parents’ mental health against them.
I also refused to do what they asked of me, which was visit my kids, attend a domestic violence group and go to therapy.
I knew I needed the services, but I was at my lowest point. I was focused on my kids’ father even though the constant fighting between us depressed me and I felt like I would never get my kids back because I was weak and unsteady. I told myself that I didn’t deserve them and that I should give up. So I buried my feelings and continued getting drunk and high.
I didn’t see my kids for the first three months of my case.
I wish I understood back then that I had a time period to get my kids back. I might not have wasted that time.
A CHANCE FOR CHANGE
The man I’m now married to helped me to see that I needed to change. He had been in my life before my kids’ father and he helped me realize that my behavior was affecting my kids and that I could lose them forever.
His support helped me to quit smoking and drinking, and to start taking my meds and visiting my kids.
But after six months I fell off by dealing with my ex again. He was my kids’ father and I really wanted a traditional family. Nothing had changed with him, but I still spent the next year going back and forth between him and my husband.
I went back to my old ways and disappeared from my case and my kids for months at a time.
When I did show up, I was hostile with everyone, especially my worker. I was always yelling and threatening her.
The summer of 2015, I returned to my husband. We moved into the shelter and life got more stable. But a few months later, the court led to terminate my parental rights.
I was scared. I thought I had more time. The TPR made me realize what I had to do.
I quit drinking and smoking, did my services and got back on my meds. I moved to a shelter by myself so that I could qualify for housing. I started visiting my kids.
I also found out I was pregnant. That made me even more determined to get my daughters back.
CHANGE MY KIDS COULD BELIEVE IN
Visiting my kids again was emotional. They were angry at me. My oldest daughter showed her feelings by getting fussy and aggravated. When I would say, “I love you,” she would say, “I don’t want you to love me.”
To win them back, I had to show them that I missed them and that I understood why they were mad at me.
I played with them and I read to them and talked to them. I gave them affection. I also didn’t miss any more visits. I won their trust back by showing I’d changed.
I was consistent up until I gave birth to my twins in August 2016, so the judge gave me a suspended judgment—I got an extra year to do what I needed to do to bring my daughters home. During that time, I moved from supervised to unsupervised visits, and then overnight.
A NEW FAMILY PLAN
I loved having my kids overnight, but it made me realize that having all four children together was too much for me. I just couldn’t do it.
I suggested KinGap for them—my aunt became their guardian. In July 2017, my case was closed.
It took three years but I learned that I did need help. I was neglecting my daughters, not in the way the court said but in ways they didn’t know about, like us sleeping in parks.
Today, my twins are almost 2 and Melanie and Amaya are 5 and 4. I see them once a month. They play with their siblings and we all play together. We also read and go for long walks. I still don’t get along with my aunt, but because of the love they have for her, I maintain respect and conversation. My kids are happy.
If they’re happy, I’m happy.