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Usually, our “Real Stories” come from Family Continuity families and staff. This month however, and in keeping with the theme describing the impact of trauma on individuals and families, we’d like to share Nicole’s story, an Iraq war vet, and how the trauma of wartime can affect a family, even after a parent’s return home.
Blamed for My War Wounds
Child protection left me feeling ashamed and angry. Preventive services support me.
BY NICOLE GOODWIN (RISE Magazine)
When I came home from serving my country in Iraq, I also brought home a lot of war wounds inside of me. Over time, my symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder grew harder and harder to handle, and made it harder and harder for me to take care of my daughter.
Eventually I was found guilty of neglecting my daughter and I ended up separated from her for six months. During those six months, my caseworker changed three times. Each time the caseworker changed, I felt like I was on trial again, having to recite my personal information concerning the case and all the things that had gone wrong in my life that led to my daughter’s removal.
While my daughter was in foster care, caseworkers showed up from time to time to monitor me. I found those moments to be intrusive and intimidating, and I found the whole process disrespectful: they often showed up late or sometimes not at all. The most irritating factor was that every service I requested—because I really did want to get my life together—was denied. The explanation always was: “We just don’t have it in the budget.” Most of the steps I took and most of the programs I joined to get better I initiated myself.
After my daughter came home, I was referred to preventive services. The first agency I went to didn’t offer me much, and I always worried that they might call child protective services on me if something went wrong in my family. But a year ago, I found a new preventive service agency, the Association to Benefit Children, and I finally feel like I have a partner that supports me.
A Partner in Parenting
Now I still have mandatory home visits from the caseworker, but ABC showed me they understand and respect the demands on my life by adjusting the scheduling of those visits to fit my schedule. They also have performed all sorts of actions that go above and beyond the basic requirements.
I take a Parenting Journey class at their offices that has given me a chance to reflect on the way I was raised and how I raised my own daughter, and to be part of a community.
They have helped me with practical matters, too, like help with transportation. They have connected me with services that benefit my family, like a referral to family therapy, and a summer camp for my daughter. And they go out of their way to stay connected to me. They call to make sure I keep my appointments, and if I miss an appointment, they call to inquire about how I am doing.
Increased Confidence, Better Parenting
It’s not as if my preventive service agency has become my best friend. It hasn’t. But I do feel like the workers try to understand what is unique about my family and the unique demands on our lives.
That has made a big difference to me. Before I felt like I couldn’t speak my mind and that I was blamed for every little thing. I found it hard to make decisions as a parent, and to trust those decisions. Now I feel validated, and that makes me feel a lot more capable. Before I just felt angry, overwhelmed, and bogged down with shame and guilt. Now I get the sense that I am always able to improve.
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