"I Did the Work"
"Just to open that door and see my son sleeping in his bed, you have no idea how that makes me feel," stated "Anne" who expressed sincere gratitude for the many people who lifted her up during one of the most trying times in her life.
Anne is sober. Her inspirational message speaks to the power of the human spirit and how engagement with family systems and public/private partnerships lead to positive outcomes.
Anne is the oldest of five children who at an early age took on primary caretaking responsibilities of her siblings while her mother worked long hours. "I raised my brothers and sisters. My brothers were like my sons," she stated. Anne has lost all of her brothers - one committed suicide and two others were murdered in their community. One brother she referred to as her "best friend."
"I have lot of grief I carry," she stated.
In her young adult years, Anne experienced domestic violence and relationships which turned the opposite of how they started. "I thought he loved me," she stated, recalling a previous partner's affection towards her prior to his coercive control taking over. "You never know what the next individual is thinking," she stated.
Substance use became an issue, yet it was addressed - Anne's way of handling problems - and she gained sobriety.
Fast forward almost 20 years later and different challenges surfaced. The COVID-19 pandemic saw Anne lose her job as a CNA which she held for decades. Her youngest son, "Terrance," was taking part in remote learning which was not conducive to his behavioral health needs and she began associating with a new group of friends. "I don't blame the people, I blame myself," Anne stated. "I had lots of free time."
The substance use started again as a coping mechanism and a way to self-medicate the onset of untreated mental health issues. Life became overwhelming. Her struggles were unable to be hidden any longer from family members, and a referral was made to the Department of Children and Families.
As the home conditions escalated, Terrance became in need of a temporary place to live. Terrance's older brother, "Devon," and his wife agreed to become licensed kinship caregivers and welcomed him into their home. The older brother now caring for the younger brother - family taking care of family.
"My son had my back 100%," Anne stated when speaking how Devon and his family mobilized to assist his own mother and little brother.
Placement was hard on Anne but especially for Terrance. Visits occurred in the local community including restaurants, but they were no substitute for having Terrance home. Anne talked on the phone with him and used Facetime to remain in contact. She is also of the belief that knowing where Terrance was placed, aided in her recovery.
"Thank God for DCF," Anne was quick to emphasize when thinking back on the Agency's involvement.
One of those individuals who came into Anne's life is Department of Children and Families' social worker Brittany Roberts. "She is a great DCF worker," Anne stated. "She made me feel like she was in my corner," and described her as "real" in the manner in which she speaks with you.
During one poignant moment, Anne recalls Brittany encouraging her to stay strong, keeping focus on the future and despite her current struggles, reinforced that she was a good mother. "I cried when I talked to her over the phone," Anne stated.
Anne speaks of her current worker, Janelle Williams, with similar admiration. "She is the same way," Anne stated. "She will uplift and encourage you. I thank God for them."
With a supportive team, family engagement and active participation in a substance use program, sobriety became a reality. "I was ready to stop," she emphasized. Great progress was made. "The women in my wellness program admired me."
Anne's deep faith also came into play. "God gave me the strength to be a good mom," she stated. Her favorite bible passage is Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…"
After a short number of months, Terrance returned home - the family was once again whole. The picture at the top of this story showing Anne and Terrance holding hands says it all.
Anne speaks openly of her road ahead. It is a scripture passage from Isaiah 54:17 - "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper…" which comes to her mind when thinking of her sobriety.
"I am proud of myself, it's a struggle," Anne stated when discussing the reality that maintaining sobriety will require lifelong support.
She now speaks with great pride when thinking of how Devon and her other son, "Tyrese," tell her they are "proud" of her and the changes she made in her life. "Mom, we are just so proud of you," they say.
What advice would Anne have for other families working with DCF? "Don't always think DCF is bad. Be real with them and they will be real with you. The services are there, it is up to you to use them," Anne stated.
"Never give up, you can do it."
"I did the work."