The trees pass by in a blur as I look out the passenger window of the moving car. Today has been a long time coming. This has been a long fight, a long struggle to do what I knew I had to do not only for myself, but for my children. Nine long years have passed amidst the struggle to get my babies back, but one by one my children are coming back to me. They are coming home.
It has been said that life happens, and how you react defines your life. I never thought life would happen in the way that it did for me and my children. From our move away from New York to leave the abuse, to the moment we found it again in Georgia, I knew there had to be something better. I went to the State for help, and they did help for a while, but I was so damaged from all I had been through that they did not see how I could take care of my children. They knew I had to be taken care of, too. I was bruised and battered inside and out. I never knew that this would start a battle of its own.
As I went through treatment and received care, I kept in contact with my children, worrying about them day and night. I love them so much; they are my world! As soon as I could, I started calling the Department of Family and Children’s Services. I began to meet the requirements to try and have my children back home with me, but something had gone wrong. The case had been moved to a certain classification for some reason, and they said since too much time had passed, there was nothing I could do. My children were now children of the State. I was devastated. How could this happen to me?
I felt I had done everything I could. I made phone calls day and night to places of resource where they might be able to provide me with some assistance or support. All roads were a dead end. I decided to take a walk one day through the center of town. By act of God or a miracle itself, I saw a building that read The Exchange Club Family Resource Center, and my heart soared. I contemplated, pacing the parking lot for several minutes, but I had nothing to lose. I went in to warm smiles, and a reception that made me feel like I was not was a stranger. I soon found out that they were able to help parents who had problems with custody, abuse, and similar home life issues. I had to tell them my story. If anyone could help me, at that moment it seemed like it was them.
I told them what had gone on, and how much pain my family and I had endured. I told of us moving, and then moving again, only to find a dead end in our town. I cried about my children not being with me anymore, and of how I wanted them. I was willing to do whatever it took.
Within days they were on the case, and within months they were able to set up visitation with my kids in a setting where I could be Mommy. My parent aide became one of my closest and trusted friends, and when we were with my kids, I truly felt like the hope was starting to be fulfilled. It was this family environment that I believe pushed me even further toward my goals, giving me the drive and courage to do what had to be done so our family could be together like it used to be.
So now here we are, three years after I started working with The Family Resource Center, and today is the day my last child comes home to complete our family. No words can describe how it feels to have your family together again after losing what many take for granted. I do not know what I would have done without The Exchange Club Family Resource Center. I am sure there are many single parents, abused mothers, and displaced family members who completely lose their family from tragic circumstances, even after thinking they had used all the resources they had. But that was not the case for me, because today my family is reunited again.
-As told to Benjamin Gaylor, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.