Shaping a troubled teen into a remarkable woman and mother
When Jennifer looks back on her life, it’s hard for her to put her traumatic story into words. Growing up with two alcoholic parents, Jennifer wanted nothing more than a normal childhood—but normal wasn’t in her cards.
Her parents divorced, and her father was the only one who could get sober enough to take Jennifer and her three siblings. Soon, her father remarried. Her new stepmother convinced Jennifer’s father to get rid of his children, and Jennifer was the first to go. She then went to live with her grandmother and that’s when her downward spiral began.
At 13, she ran away from her grandmother’s house with a friend. When she returned, she was placed in handcuffs and taken to jail. After sitting in a holding cell for 27 hours, she was told that her father had signed over his rights and wanted to have his daughter placed in SRS custody.
Jennifer then began a long struggle in foster care. She moved frequently and was constantly in and out of trouble. Her grades were dropping, she was skipping school and she began fighting with other children.
“I was doing things that I wouldn’t normally do. I was really starting to act up,” says Jennifer.
Getting a second chance
Jennifer’s behavior was so bad that one of her teachers recommended she be placed with a Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as CASA.
CASA of Sedgwick County (Roots and Wings), funded by United Way of the Plains, is a program consisting of a dedicated group of trained volunteers who provide advocacy services for abused or neglected children. The idea behind the program is to advocate for children placed in foster care.
At first Jennifer didn’t want anything to do with her CASA worker. After a couple of months, she began to open up.
“She would come pick me up like once or twice a week—sometimes from school—and it made me seem more normal,” said Jennifer.
The time Jennifer spent with her CASA worker made a huge impact on her life. Her grades came up in school, she didn’t fight with anyone anymore and she looked forward to making her CASA worker proud of her.
“I was solely focusing on the things that she told me. She told me, ‘It’s you in this world, and if you mess yourself up, it’s going to be harder for you when you get older.’ She said things that really got my attention,” Jennifer said.
For Jennifer, the time she spent with her CASA worker saved her life. “I would probably be on drugs (without her). I would have never gone back to college and who knows where I’d be. I’m scared to even think about it,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer is now a Certified Nurse Aide and happily married with three young children. She is grateful for the time her CASA worker spent with her and has decided to become one. She hopes to mentor other young adults and give them the same advice to impact their lives for the better.
Article by Lacey Cruse