When Kim’s husband died suddenly, her biggest fear was that their children would go into foster care. “I was in foster care as a child, and that’s where so much trauma happened to me. I didn’t want that to happen to my kids,” Kim said.
A constant battle with substance abuse
Kim grew up in a fractured family. Both of her parents struggled with drug addictions, and life was painful in her own home and in the homes of her foster parents. Kim became addicted to drugs when she was only thirteen years old.
But, over the next seven years, Kim’s life started to turn around. She became a Christian, got clean, and met her husband. He understood her background because he had also come from a family broken by addictions. The first ten years of their marriage were full of sweet memories. They had five children and became involved in a local church. “It was this wonderful love story,” Kim said. They even came to a Bethany fundraiser and were so encouraged by the experience that they considered becoming resource parents for kids in need.
Then an incident occurred that unearthed their old battles. Kim’s husband had surgery for his gall bladder and was prescribed pain killers. They both slipped into old patterns and began using the pain medication. The next decade was marked by deeper battles with addictions. In the midst of it all, they worked hard to keep their family afloat and to care for their growing kids.
“Even in addiction, you try to do your best. I still had that instinct in me to protect my kids,” Kim said. But as their struggle grew worse, they distanced themselves from church and friends. “We started isolating ourselves because of our shame,” she said.
The shocking overdose
Years went by. Then Kim’s husband overdosed, and he was suddenly gone.
All Kim could think about was their kids. Even in her shock and grief, she made up her mind that she had to get help for her addiction so she could remain in their lives. She had to go to rehab.
Their oldest child was an adult on his own already, but the remaining four were all young teens who needed somewhere to stay. At that point, Kim’s support network was gone. She didn’t have anywhere to turn, so she contacted her sisters.
Kim’s sisters grew up in the same painful home environment that she did. And, in many ways, these generational patterns were repeated in their lives. They were both dealing with their own addictions. The children went back and forth between their aunts’ places. They felt unwelcome and unwanted, but there weren’t any alternatives. Kim would talk to them on the phone and say, “We have to give this to God. It’s too big for us.”
A surprising source of community through Safe Families for Children
Successfully completing rehab, Kim emerged with no support. She didn’t have a home, a car, or a job. Her sisters had sold the belongings she’d put in storage. She was determined to walk by faith and with integrity, so she started at square one, working at Home Depot and making $9 an hour. “I just kept holding on to, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ and ‘Joy comes in the morning,’” Kim said.
Kim struggled to scrape a living together and get stable housing so that her kids could come home. She held on to hope that God would provide, and she focused on working hard for her kids. But her heart dropped when she found out that one of her sister’s homes was no longer a safe place for the children. Kim called Children and Youth Services immediately, desperate to get them out of the situation.
The idea that her children would have to go into foster care terrified Kim. The county social worker started describing a hosting program called Safe Families for Children, and Kim listened with guarded hope. But, when the social worker mentioned that the program was through Bethany, a sense of relief washed over her. Kim thought back to the Bethany fundraiser so many years ago. “As soon as I found out it was Bethany, I was sure it was meant to happen,” Kim said.
Kim’s four kids were welcomed by two different Host Families, and then all four came to live together with one Host Family: Joy and Tony. The children told Kim how different their new homes were and how they actually enjoyed being there. “It was night and day. They were with my sisters whom they’ve known their whole lives … but they were living in nothing but chaos. When they went to these homes, these people were strangers, and yet they felt safe and supported,” Kim said.
While Kim’s kids were receiving support from their host family, Kim discovered her own support from a community of strangers: the Bethany staff and the network of Safe Families volunteers. “Everyone at Bethany was amazing,” Kim said. “Not once have I ever felt judged or looked at sideways, and that’s a big deal.”
Kim’s lasting network of support
Bethany’s team found out Kim’s most pressing needs and connected her with resources. “I felt like I had a person. That felt really good,” she said. One volunteer met with Kim and helped her create a monthly budget and plan her finances. Another volunteer provided a supply of canned food that Kim could keep on hand. When the day finally came for Kim to move into a new home with her kids, her community of strangers was there to support her. People donated a table, beds, towels, sheets—all the home essentials that she needed to begin again.
Kim felt like she could finally exhale when she saw her children sitting together with her in their home. “I can’t even put it into words,” she said. “We were always a really close family, so being separated was just terrible. But coming back together, it gave us a second chance at home.” After so many months of chaos, they were finally together. They could begin grieving the loss of their dad while finally having a sense of hope for the future.
Since then, Kim’s family hasn’t had to navigate life alone. They have their new community of strangers who have now become dear friends. “The kids know that there’s someone else out there who cares for them. Especially for kids that lost a parent … that’s a really big deal,” Kim said.
Recently, one of Kim’s sons was in a school play. Typically, he would expect to look out and just see his mom, smiling in the audience, with his siblings alongside. But not this time. This time, not only was his family there, but his Host Parents, Joy and Tony, and their kids were there too. The Host Family had driven almost an hour to come cheer him on.
Kim is grateful for their friendship and the way they make her kids feel at home. She said, “When I see them, I’m filled with love.” Joy and Tony also took all four teens on their family’s summer vacation this past year. “They got a week and a half of nothing but fun,” Kim said.
Kim is especially thankful for how Joy and Tony have impacted one of her daughters in particular. Her daughter was struggling in her aunt’s home, and she was slipping into the same patterns that had dragged Kim down.
Kim said, “There was a fork in the road where she could have followed my path or taken a different one.” But, because the Safe Families community wrapped their arms around Kim and her children during their time of need, Kim’s daughter was kept from the same unhealthy patterns that Kim battled.
“Joy is this amazing example of a strong woman who is career oriented, and I know my girls look up to that. When my girls are looking at colleges, I know if they have questions, they can reach out to Joy,” Kim said. Looking back, Kim said, “I’m the prime example of what can happen when there’s not [something like Safe Families]. I suffered so much trauma as a child in foster care. But the fact that Bethany can prevent that … to have an alternative to foster care, is amazing.”
The Safe Families for Children ministry has empowered Kim to pave a different path for her children and to change generational trends. She’s given her children a community, a hope for their future, and a second chance at home.