Following an abusive relationship with her husband of 13 years, Sammy knew she had to make some changes for herself and her son, Daniel, who was placed into foster care. With the help of social workers and resource parents at Children’s Bureau, Sammy received the support she needed to complete a rehabilitation program and parenting classes to reunite with her son. Continue reading to learn about Sammy’s journey and how Children’s Bureau helped her achieve a happy ending.
CB: Tell us a little about yourself:
Growing up, my family was very dysfunctional. My father was an alcoholic who told you what to do and when to do it. If you did not obey, you got the belt. My mother tried to protect me and did what she could, but I got hurt. I grew up surrounded with domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
CB: What brought you into contact with the foster care system?
Once I left home, I got into a relationship that involved domestic violence. I was in that relationship with my husband for 13 years. When I became pregnant with my son, everything changed for me. After an incident where both my son and I were almost killed, I focused all my efforts on getting out of that relationship. It took me a while, but I finally managed to get out and eventually got divorced.
My husband and I drank a lot and started doing methamphetamines. That got crazy and I didn’t know which way was up. We were reported for domestic violence and my son was removed and placed into foster care.
CB: What were your thoughts during that time?
Everything seemed so hopeless. I thought that my son was at a better place than I could offer him and that maybe he should just stay there. I was afraid that the resource parents would judge me and consider me a bad person. I was so scared to meet them. Then I tried to do inpatient rehab, but it was in Long Beach and my son was in Littlerock. I wouldn’t be able to visit him for the time it took, so I quit the inpatient rehab. I came back to Palmdale and started outpatient rehab. Outpatient rehab worked for me because I could have family time with my son, be close to him and do the rehabilitation program at the same time.
CB: What type of help were you given in order to reunite with your son?
Once I started the outpatient rehab program and started family time with my son, I got support that I wasn’t expecting. I was mandated to begin a domestic violence program by DCFS, parenting classes with Children’s Bureau and drug testing.
The parenting classes with Children’s Bureau seemed like they were directed at me and really helped. As a child, I was told what to do. Then, as a married woman I was told what to do. I did not feel confident in any decision I made because I had made so many bad choices. I had no parenting skills and these classes gave me positive things to do when my son was acting up. My son, unfortunately because of our history of domestic violence and my drug use, spit at me, hit me, kicked me and my guilt was so deep that all I could do was sit and cry. The guilt was blinding. Those parenting classes gave me something I never had, which was a loving way of disciplining and a way to set limits both for my son and for myself.
The other thing that helped me was the resource parents. I realized that the resource mom was as scared of me as I was of her. She was afraid that I would be angry and think that she was trying to take my son from me. Once she met me and I met her and her husband, I got support that I was not expecting. The resource parents were wonderful with my son and asked me for my opinion. They treated me like just another parent. They kept me informed about everything he was doing and even asked for permission to take him on vacation with them. I started making decisions one by one with them and started feeling more confident that I could make good decisions. This was new for me.
CB: Where did you have family time with your child? How did it go?
In the first visits, my son was happy to see me, but he was also angry. He would hit me, and I would cry, wondering why he was being so mean to me. It was hard, and the social worker had to help me at times. After I started the parenting classes and started learning how to set limits, the visits got better. I was grateful that my son was with the resource parents during this time. They were open to me and wanted the best for my son. They encouraged me constantly to stay with the programs and complete the classes.
CB: What changes have you made in your life to reunite with your child?
Not being around the wrong crowd was a big change. I learned parenting skills that I never had. I connected with others with domestic violence in their past. Now, I don’t do drugs or drink. I spend time with my son and try to make the best decisions for him and me.
CB: What advice would you give families considering becoming resource parents to foster and foster-adopt children?
One thing is that just because birth parents have done bad things, it doesn’t make them bad people. I was so afraid of being judged that I did not visit with my son for a month after he was removed. I had so much guilt and pain and almost gave up in the beginning. But I completed all the programs and drug testing and my son came home. Something that started bad resulted in me learning a lot and becoming a better mother.