A courageous mother breaks the cycle of abuse despite abandonment by her parents and a pipe bomb lock-down at the hospital while having her baby.
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A young mother creates a better life for her daughter
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"Family Building Blocks has given my family the opportunity to make our lives better"
– Skarlett's mom
"Mom! Music!" Three-year old Skarlett's eyes lit with excitement and curiosity as she pointed excitedly and pulled her mother Tammy by the hand down the halls of Stayton High School toward the sounds of singing, clapping and musical instruments. To their surprise, mother and daughter discovered a group of parents and young children enjoying the activities of FBB's newest playgroup in Stayton. Encouraged to join the group, Tammy and Skarlett excitedly spent the next hour singing, laughing, dancing and reading together. At the end of the playgroup, FBB staff encouraged Tammy to seek FBB services for herself and Skarlett, whom she was parenting alone.
Two days later, Tammy called FBB to sign up for services. A FBB home visitor began visiting Tammy and Skarlett and quickly began to understand the enormous challenges the family was facing. Food was scarce, job opportunities were limited and Tammy was unemployed. Skarlett's father was no longer providing financial support for the family, and Tammy was struggling with depression and isolation. Skarlett often expressed her frustration through extreme temper tantrums, leaving Tammy upset and unsure how to respond.
Tammy sought advice from FBB to understand Skarlett's cues and to learn techniques to reduce the number of tantrums by redirecting her daughter's behavior and validating her feelings. Tammy and Skarlett regularly attend FBB playgroups, and Tammy reports feeling more connected to her community because of the resources FBB has provided for her family. FBB's new home visitation and playgroup program in Stayton, Lyons and Mehama has allowed rural families to benefit from valuable early childhood services that keep children safe and families together.
Thank you to the Oregon Community Foundation and the Doris Wipper Family Fund for funding this project.
One year ago, life seemed grim for one-year old Troy and his family. Troy’s parents were struggling to find jobs, lived in extreme poverty, and lacked positive people in their lives to offer support and guidance to the young family. Troy was timid and avoided making any connections with others. Troy’s parents sought help from FBB and began working toward their goals of obtaining steady jobs, reducing their isolation, and helping Troy increase his social skills.
Developmental assessments completed during FBB home visits revealed a delay in Troy’s speech and communication skills. FBB staff encouraged his social development and language abilities during home visits and in the therapeutic classroom while also working with his parents to refer him to additional support services. Today, Troy’s personality continues to blossom. His deep brown eyes light up with excitement when he arrives at school each day and curiously explores his environment.
Troy’s dad now has a full-time job and is working hard to provide for his family. His mom works part-time and is always excited to welcome the family’s home visitor to share their accomplishments. As a result of FBB’s comprehensive support services, Troy’s family is working to become self-sufficient and Troy is on track to become a star kindergartner when he turns five.
Another Kindergarten STAR is Born
As the seasons change, the families of FBB preschoolers say goodbye to their home visitors and classroom teachers and prepare for the next chapter: entering kindergarten. On her final home visit, FBB mother Patricia surprised her home visitor with a handwritten note, which reflected her appreciation for the support she had received from FBB.
"I wish to give thanks to everyone who has helped my son Alex and me. It has been a great experience to participate in the home visits, play groups and other activities over the years. With your coaching and support, Alex and I have great skills and are ready to graduate from FBB."
Three years ago, Patricia was overwhelmed with managing the needs of an active toddler, three school-age children, and surviving on her husband's single income to support her family. Living in isolation and lacking reliable transportation, Patricia was challenged with walking at least 30 minutes to buy basic supplies for her family and attend medical appointments. She also began to worry that Alex was not learning how to play with other young children.
Patricia found immediate relief with FBB home visits, phone support and play groups. She was directed to resources to support her family and began to form relationships with other young mothers. FBB provided transportation to and from the play groups so Patricia and Alex could regularly attend. During the first few play groups, Alex was inconsolable, clinging to Patricia and refusing to leave her side. In time, Alex gained the self-confidence needed to play independently with other children, stopping periodically to flash a smile of delight toward his mom. Now, as Alex begins a new chapter of life and enters kindergarten, he is ready to learn and become a star of his class. Congratulations to Alex and our other FBB graduates!
All Ariya wanted for her 5th birthday was her mommy
"When I got tooken away, I cried because I missed her."
Because her mother Savana was using drugs and making bad choices, 4 ½ –year old Ariya was placed in foster care. While Savana began the long road to recovery, Ariya attended FBB's therapeutic classroom and started to build the broken relationship with her mom. "I had lots of friends in my class," Ariya said with a big grin. Savana often joined Ariya in the classroom, where they began to build a new safe and playful relationship, donning hats and fancy gowns and squishing playdough between their fingers.
Savana worked hard to create a new life for herself and her daughter. Just before her 5th birthday, Ariya saw her wish come true: she moved back home and blew out her birthday candles with her mother by her side. Savana recently celebrated 16 months of being clean and sober, and her DHS case was closed. FBB nurtures parent-child relationships like Savana's and Ariya's in order to keep children safe and families together.
"My mommy is happy now. She goes to school and is learning to be smart like me!"
A better life for Ricky
"I was 21 years old when I had my first son. I was involved with drugs and gangs and lost Ricky when he was 3 weeks old. That's when I knew I had to start making a change in my life."
These are the words from Krysta, a young mother in FBB's home visitation program. Motivated by the traumatic removal of her son, Krysta spent a year in drug treatment struggling to stay clean and sober. Taking one day at a time, she welcomed Ricky back to her home as she continued to create a new healthy life. Krysta and Ricky lived in a one-bedroom apartment without room for Ricky to run, move and explore. Krysta worried about Ricky's anger and poor communication skills since returning from foster care. Seeking FBB services, Krysta began receiving monthly home visits and ongoing support. The results were remarkable.
"Within 3 months, my son and I learned how to talk with one another so much that he actually told me his feelings."
FBB provided Krysta with parenting support, helped her access community resources, and served as an advocate as she navigated her way toward self-sufficiency. Krysta knows that parenting is an ongoing learning process. She says that she is willing to do whatever she can to improve Ricky's life.
"School bus, Mom! School!" Pointing and waving, 3-year old Ally looks excitedly out her apartment window. She waves to the FBB bus as it stops to pick up neighborhood children enrolled in FBB's classrooms. Ally wishes that she could ride this bus too, but she has been on the waiting list for these FBB classes for a year.
Ally is a vivacious, talkative girl who loves to meet new people and experience life. But she hasn't always been like this. It was only one year ago that Sarah, Ally's mother, reached out to FBB, desperately seeking services for herself and Ally. She had recently fled a violent relationship and turned to FBB for support with parenting and rebuilding her shattered life. Having witnessed the domestic violence between her parents, young Ally displayed violent outbursts and would hit, yell and pull her mother's hair.
While Ally would have benefited from FBB's therapeutic classes, there was no room for her so she was placed on the waiting list. Instead, Ally began attending FBB play groups to learn how to interact with adults and children. Sarah has been receiving frequent home visits from FBB and has taken steps toward being self-sufficient, securing a job and moving out of an emergency shelter into an apartment. The bond between Sarah and Ally is growing stronger each day.
Waving one last goodbye to the departing bus, Ally turned to Sarah, inquiring again "Mommy, when is my turn for school?" With a warm smile, Sarah tells her daughter that she will be starting school in a few short weeks. Ally has been accepted into FBB's Therapeutic Classroom and will be riding the bus this fall. The added support of classes for Ally and continued home visits for Sarah will help ensure that both Ally and Sarah are successful in the years to come.
One year ago, Valerie was overwhelmed, alone and lost. She was battling severe postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Kiley, six months earlier. She was isolated with her infant in a small house in rural Polk County. She didn’t make eye contact or even offer Kiley a nurturing smile during feeding. Before long, the infant wore her mother’s same blank, lost stare on her small face and was stiff and rigid to human touch. Gathering the courage to seek help, Valerie enrolled Kiley in FBB’s Therapeutic Classroom at Gracie’s Place.
At first, Kiley avoided the other children in the classroom and was resistant to the nurturing presence of FBB teachers and volunteers. With time, Kiley began to cue adults to her needs with subtle grunts or hand gestures. As she developed trust, she sought out other children, beginning to smile, laugh and form friendships.
FBB teachers worked with Valerie and Kiley during home visits to strengthen their bond and help Valerie access Polk County resources to address her mental health concerns. Now Kiley is a curious, social 13-month old who runs excitedly into the classroom each day, laughing and greeting teachers and volunteers with a big hug. With the support of FBB, families like Valerie and Kiley’s are thriving and learning the skills to remain safe, intact and healthy.
Changing Lives: Baby Leah
“Every time I look at my baby, I want to cry. I love her so much, but seeing her reminds me of my painful past.” These were the very honest words Sarah confided to her FBB home visitor during one of her first home visits. Having recently fled a violent and abusive relationship,Sarah felt frightened, isolated and lonely. She turned to FBB for support in raising her newborn daughter, Leah. Because of the trauma in her past, Sarah had a difficult time holding her baby close, often looking away as her daughter’s small face looked up at her.
With continued parenting support and home visits, Sarah learned to understand what her baby needed from her, to hold and touch and watch her daughter grow with a sense of closeness and pride. She began working with a mental health therapist and has made progress toward addressing the trauma of her past. On a recent home visit, Sarah proudly announced that Leah was beginning to walk. Taking a few wobbly steps, Leah looked to Sarah for reassurance and excitedly collapsed into her mother’s waiting arms. Holding Leah close, Sarah said she finally felt safe and confident as a woman and a mother.
In her arms was the one thing keeping her off drugs
Overwhelmed and exhausted, Julie walked through FBB’s doors seeking a fresh start. In her arms she held her sleeping son, Will, four months old and the one thing in her life that was keeping her off drugs. Before Will, Julie struggled for years addicted to methamphetamine and having lost everything she was proud of: friends, employment, housing, school and the life she had once known. Julie was raised in a supportive home but made poor decisions as a teenager and was facing a felony record and deepening depression.
Shortly after Will’s birth, Julie reached out in despair. She was determined that Will would have a better life than she had, and Julie sought help to make that happen. She enrolled in the Fostering Attachment Drug Court at FBB and began learning parenting skills, developing a support system and addressing her addiction and depression.
Today, Will is an energetic, curious three-year old who talks a mile a minute and lights up the halls of FBB with his laughter. His piercing brown eyes dance as he runs ahead of Julie to greet FBB teachers and staff each day. Julie recently graduated from the drug court, is working toward a degree in social services and achieved honor roll status. Thanks to the support provided by FBB, Julie and Will are developing the skills needed to lead fulfilling and productive lives!
“When I get big, I’m going to jail just like my Daddy!”
-Nicolas, 4 years old
When the police carried out a drug raid at his home, Nicolas was less than four years old. He has seen his father taken away in handcuffs in a police car. Nicolas’s mother, who struggles with drug addiction and depression, is unable to give him hugs, won’t let him sit on her lap, and can’t look into his eyes. Without supervision, Nicolas often wanders off into the neighborhood; once they found him at construction site.
What kind of person will Nicolas become? A drug addict? A criminal?
Nicolas now attends our therapeutic classrooms which are designed to prepare children for kindergarten by stimulating brain development and teaching social skills and empathy. When Nicolas first entered the classrooms, he didn’t know how to interact with the other children or the caregivers. He pushed and hit them, grabbed toys, grunted and growled, and called them names like, “stupid head.”
After a year in the classroom, his caregiver, Ben, has noticed small but important changes in his behavior. Nicolas shared a toy with a friend named Fabian. Instead of grabbing, he asked Brianna if he could use a tool to cut play dough. When Lilliana was withdrawn and didn’t want to play, Nicolas gave her a hug and asked what was wrong.
Family Building Blocks is planting the seeds of empathy and social skills. Whether these seeds grow or stagnate depends on a lot of factors. His parents are taking some positive steps. His father is in drug treatment and looking for a job. His mother is investigating drug treatment options.
However, a few weeks ago Ben heard Nicolas say, “Teacher, when I get big, I’m going to jail just like my Daddy!” In Nicolas’s family, they don’t talk about having a college fund; they talk about having a “bond fund” to bail family members out of jail.
We can’t guarantee what will happen to Nicolas, but we’re doing all we can to help him. Nicolas is at a critical stage in his life for healthy brain development. Without the right kind of environment, that healthy development is lost forever. FBB is giving Nicolas the chance of going to college instead of jail.
Want to help children like Nicolas? Find out how you can support the work we do at FBB.
Names and photos are sometimes changed to protect the child's identity.