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anonymous-female

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Since the age of 7, I have lived with my grandma and relied on her to take care of me. Before that age I stayed with her off and on, but never for very long. I was unsuccessfully placed in both my mother's and my father's care. About 3 years ago, I was finally placed with my grandma. It was in her home that I found the stability I needed, along with the love and respect I had always wanted.

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I was 16 years old the last time I went into foster care, and I was again assigned to a new caseworker. I remember liking her immediately because she spoke to me like an adult.

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Shirley was only a baby when she entered the foster care system. Her parents were no longer able to care for her, and the only connection social workers knew of was her maternal grandfather, who was unable to be a placement option for her at the time. In our county, social workers work with Family Finders who help us with locating and notifying relatives.

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After months of couch surfing, I was 14 and in foster care. My journey began in Fairbanks, AK, at an emergency shelter. Eventually, I was told that I was going to be placed in Tribal foster care because I am a registered Alaska Native. At first I thought, "What's the difference? Still a system right? One can't be worse than the other." But even though my family is Alaska Native, I grew up in the city. No one in the family is traditional in any way, except for the food our distant family members sent us on occasion. What did I know about Tribal anything? I didn't even have Alaska Native friends. Thoughts of native foster parents living in the village crossed my mind, and I was scared.

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I started using drugs when I was 13 years old and have been in and out of jail and treatment since the age of 19. My life was a mess, and my children suffered the consequences of my addiction, including placement in the foster care system. In 2005, after my abusive boyfriend broke my jaw, I ended up addicted to pills as well as the alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine I had been using for years. Concerned for my safety and for my kids, my mother called the abuse hotline and then arranged to obtain custody of my two young children. I thought this was the end for me, and I began a long, downward spiral that eventually ended up with time in prison.

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As I look back over the past few years of my life as a mother, I can hardly believe that my kids and I have 
made it this far! We have definitely had our ups and downs and our fair share of time being involved with CPS. I had a very tough childhood and, like most people, I continued that cycle over and over, losing custody of my children three times. After the third time, I became involved with Washoe County Social Services and a new program that would eventually change my life as well as the lives of my children.

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I'll never forget the date: It was June 7, 2007, when I was sent to jail for possession of illegal drugs, and child welfare services picked up my daughters, Shlai and Kalawya, from daycare. At that time, Shlai was 3 years old and Kalawya was not yet a year old. After a short stay in jail, I tried to regain custody of my children. Child welfare services kept telling me to get clean of substance abuse, but I wasn't ready. My daughters were placed in foster care. Tired of my life as I had been living it, I went to a rehab center in my hometown of Nashville, TN, and they referred me to a rehab center in Alabama.

 

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Sometimes people would like to share their story to help others but do not always want their name attributed to it. For this reason, this was passed along to me for publication but I am not the author. It shows some insight with Post Traumatic Stress and Drug Addiction.

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