Theresa's Story

Theresa's Story

Theresa's Story: Family Preservation Transforms Young Mom’s Life

Our family preservation services help Kansas families who are in crisis and are at imminent risk of being separated. Often feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn, our family preservation team provides individualized services directly in the family's home.

Teresa* began receiving family preservation services at our Pittsburg, KS location when she was 17 years old.  She was in foster care, struggling in school, and starting services for drug addiction and mental health issues. While her family was very close, there was a history of domestic violence and drug addiction. Her parents and brother had been arrested more than once. Teresa’s chosen companion was one of her brother’s best friends, who had a background of juvenile crime. According to our family support worker, Laura, “This relationship created a huge wrinkle in her rehabilitation and success from drugs, as well as affected her self-esteem and independence.”

Teresa was admitted to in-patient rehab to address her addiction and mental health needs. While there, a suppressed memory emerged.  Teresa remembered a trusted family member had sexually abused her.  This acknowledgement created a huge wound in the family network and led to Teresa feeling betrayed, ostracized and alienated. Despite taking positive steps while in rehab, with the assistance of her family, Teresa chose to run from rehab. She returned home and graduated high school.

Two years later Laura began working with Teresa again.  She was now entering family preservation services as a young adult. At the time Teresa was shunned by most of her family. Her mother was living out of state due to warrants for her arrest. Teresa was still with the boyfriend from her past and pregnant with his child. He offered no assistance. She had participated in a criminal activity with him and had served time in jail while she was pregnant. She gave birth to her first born child who was medically fragile. Teresa had no home, no job, no income and no family support.

Teresa told Laura, “I felt so alone, so very much alone.”

Despite feeling afraid and unsupported, Teresa still had an attitude that her life was her own business, leading her to not meet the terms of her juvenile probation. Due to continued drug use and her personal associations, she was putting her medically fragile child’s safety at risk and she continued to remain loyal to her infant son’s father, her co-partner in criminal behavior and destruction. 

In collaboration with family preservation, Safe Families and Teresa’s probation officer, a plan was implemented requiring Teresa live with Safe Families social worker, Sara Poteat. Sara had a similar background to Teresa’s, yet had found a path to successful living. The time she spent in this family’s home was difficult. Initially, Teresa felt it was intrusive, but as time went on she learned new skills and an appreciation for caring for a medically fragile child. She grew more responsible and understood the importance of keeping medical appointments. Teresa grew more confident in her decision making and she learned there were consequences to her actions.

Months later, Laura was astounded by her progress - by the maturity and peace that she witnessed form Teresa.

“I saw a young mother caring for and very knowledgeable about her son’s medical fragility.  I saw a young mother determined, yet scared, to be a single parent and much more open to partnering with family preservation, when in the past it was more as a burden and an intrusive relationship.”

It was clear to Laura that Teresa was becoming empowered as a woman, mother and advocate for herself and her son. Laura witnessed an older child become a young, single mother who learned to bond with her child and who switched her focus from herself to that of her son. Although she still struggles she is no longer afraid to ask for help. Teresa told her, “I am comfortable with family preservation now.” 

Today, Teresa still has no relationship with two of her siblings. She has mended her relationship with one sister and her parents. Teresa remains devoted to adhering to her corrections requirements. She lives with her son, who is thriving, and has just given birth to a healthy baby boy. Laura witnessed a mom who is “aware, surprised, joyful” while engaging and bonding with her new baby. “She is definitely trailblazing on a path she has never been before.”

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.