Over the past few years, I never believed how my life would turn upside down, sideways, and back right again. This journey has been a roller coaster and I am thankful for how Alliance for Children and Families has helped me through this difficult time in my life. ACF has given me the support, encouragement, and motivation to make the changes necessary for myself and my family. The S.T.A.M.P. classes gave me the tools necessary to growth, mature and allowed me to be a better parent my 5 children. I have been able to reach beyond limits that before I would have said were nearly impossible. This is my story…
I was previously living in a townhome in Canton, Ohio with my children when I met my boyfriend. This was the start of our rocky journey. After his lease was up, my boyfriend and I struggled to make ends meet so we moved in with his family members. It was after we moving back and forth between family homes that I reached out to the homeless hotline. I entered the YWCA in a small one bedroom apartment with my 5 children. My boyfriend continued to stay with family members, which was convenient to the SARTA bus line so he could keep his job.
I had a CPS case open before my transition to Alliance. I was beginning to work on the case plan that the social worker set out for me while my children were still at home.
My goal overall, was to reunite with my boyfriend and our children altogether, and have a home of our own to live in together as a family. Unfortunately, I had to move to Alliance, and entered into homeless shelter. This was a scary adjustment for me and heartbreaking for my children. No mother wants to see their children in a homeless shelter, but I am very thankful for the supportive staff at Alliance for Children and Families that has encouraged me to re-begin my life. It was after I spent a little time in the shelter that I transitioned to the A-FIRST building.
After I moved into the A-FIRST building, I got a job working at McDonalds. My youngest baby was two weeks old when I started. Balancing the responsibilities of a new job and raising an infant along with 4 other children was difficult and I was unable to stay in contact with my case manager as frequently as required. Due to my past CPS case and lack of consistent communication with my case manager, all 5 of my children were taken away. I was at work when I got the call. I fell into a deep depression for three months after that, and my boyfriend turned to alcohol. I felt my life hit an all-time low, how could I lose my children? I immediately knew deep in my heart I was going to do whatever it took to get my children back and I found the strength to ask for help.
I attended the S.T.A.M.P. classes provided by Alliance for Children and Families. These classes were able to show me:
- Positive ways to discipline my children
- How to recognize negative and positive influences from the people in my life and how it affected my life and my children’s lives
- The best parenting styles that fit mine and the children’s needs
- How to connect with other parents in the community
- How to raise safe, healthy, and happy children
- How I can protect my children from violent behavior
I also attended anger management class, drug and alcohol assessments, and medicine compliance. I had to have a stable place for my children, a steady income, and attend family and individual counseling. I used all those positive parenting techniques to prove to my children, the courts, and myself, I not only desired to be a great parent, but I had the skills to do so.
Not only did I get full custody of my kids back, my case worker at CPS and Governor John R. Kasich, with Lieutenant Governor, Mary Taylor, recognized my boyfriend and me in Columbus as recipients of the 2017 Family of the Year. Something I know we could not have accomplished without the STAMP classes.
Overall, my advice I would give to every person in my situation is to work the case plan the first time that the social worker gives you. Don’t think twice about receiving parenting classes to help you become the best parent possible! It is better to do what you need to do the first time rather than waiting till someone intervenes. Children should always come first, and because of S.T.A.M.P. I learned how to provide better teamwork within my family.
I Would Like To Tell Anyone In A Violent Relationship to Leave
How ACF’s Non-Violence Parenting Program: Skills to Acquiring Mastery of Parenting (STAMP), Raising Safe Kids & Supportive Housing have helped my family.
As a mom, I will never forget the look of terror in my small children’s eyes as they stood in their pajamas in their bedroom doorway crying, as I lay on the floor beaten until my eardrum was ruptured. Years later, that image is as vivid for me as it must be for my children.
Housing allowed us to flee our abuser, my children’s father, and not live in constant fear day and night. However, even in our safe new apartment, it wasn’t long before it was clear we still lived out the same patterns of behavior. I knew I needed to do something, so I signed up for STAMP parenting class with a group of other parents. The parenting class helped me learn good techniques and nonviolent responses to deal with my children’s behavior. It also helped me understand why my children behaved the way they did, as their response had a lot to do with the past abusive experiences. I saw how my understanding of their actions and responding to them in a loving consistent positive manner began to make a difference.
The Road To Success
Success didn’t happen overnight, or even after a few sessions, I continue to work on being better every single day, as I parent. Having a STAMP instructor who had similar life experiences and is a single mom makes me feel like she understands. It also helps to have support of other STAMP parents who offered to me suggestions and support outside of the sessions.
Learning to raise children to be nonviolent means teaching my children not to be violent, but also not to tolerate violence from others. Because of the parenting class, I learned violence doesn’t always occur in a home. I learned it was happening with bullying at school, in music, in social media, in video gamming, and on television. So, I taught my children that it wasn’t ok for someone to bully them in or out of school and how to report any instance of violence to me and school officials. I did the same for cyber bullying that may occur on Facebook. I taught them to never tolerate bullying, even if it meant we had to file a police report. It showed my children that reporting violence was a way to stop the violence, and that we have no tolerance for anyone to treat us with acts or threats of violence again!
My Advice to Others
I would like to tell anyone in a violent relationship to leave. There is help out there. But just leaving doesn’t undo the harm you or your children have experienced. It takes a lot of work to deprogram and not fall back into the same bad habits that either enabled the violence or poor responses to the trauma my children would play out in their behavior. However, it is all worth it for my children to learn what a loving, caring, and safe family life is like for them now and for their entire future.
What I wish I knew then that I learned from STAMP:
- My children are not misbehaving for attention or trying to hurt me. Their behavior is a “symptom” of the repeated violence they were exposed to.
- Just because the children didn’t receive the physical violence, witnessing or overhearing their mom being abused was just as harmful.
- Establishing consequences for my children’s misbehavior helps them learn a lesson about why the behavior is wrong, and how to prevent it from continuing to happen in the future.
- Take all threats seriously.
- Having an awareness of victimization and role model teaches my children how to avoid the risk of re-victimization in the future.
- Violence is NOT normal. We live in a world that is over tolerant of violence and I don’t want my children to think it is “ok” or normal to live in violence or fear. Take every opportunity to talk about why it is not.