Bobbi, a mom reunited with her kids after foster care
It only took one call for the whole world to come crashing down. For Bobbi, that call came from her daughter’s school, 11 years ago. That’s when she learned that her husband had been molesting their daughter for four years.
It was a shocking allegation, and Bobbi thought, Is this true? How could I have missed the signs? It was disorienting to realize the life and the marriage she thought she had was a lie, and the man who hurt her daughter also put her life in danger to hide his crime.
In a moment, everything changed. Her husband was arrested and imprisoned. Her daughter and three sons were removed from her home and placed into foster care. Bobbi’s picture of her happy family shattered around her, wounding everyone and leaving her alone. How had everything gone so wrong?
Bobbi turned to the one place she knew she could go for help—her family.
I called my mom at my parents’ winter home in Florida and said, “I don’t know what to do.” She said, “We’re packing up. We’re coming home.”
And that was just the beginning—my family came through for me in so many ways that year, assuring me of their love and support when I felt alone and terrified.
Where have you been?
That February day I called home, my mom was surprised to hear from me. “Where have you been?” she’d asked, wondering why, for more than five years, I’d been so unresponsive. Anytime my parents would call, my husband put them off, saying, “She’s resting,” but he’d never give me the message. My mom thought I was mad at them when I didn’t return their calls.
That was one tactic he used to alienate me from my family. The other was more calculated.
I have a nerve disorder and live with chronic pain. Until 2009, I’d managed it with a prescription medication—an opioid that can be addictive and even fatal if misused. I’d been feeling foggy and lethargic; some days I didn’t even get out of bed. I knew I didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know why.
After my husband was arrested, I learned that he’d been crushing my pills and putting extra medication in my food. Both my daughter and my sister-in-law had seen him do it, but he’d lied about it, saying it was the only way he could get me to take my meds. The dosage, well beyond what had been prescribed, kept me in a zombie-like state, unaware of what was happening under our roof.
When my parents returned from Florida and saw how sick I was, they didn’t want me to be alone. “You’re coming to live with us,” they said.
I drove myself to their house, but I have no memory of that drive. I took myself off the medication cold turkey, and my withdrawal symptoms were so severe, my parents took me to the ER three times in two days. They didn’t know if I would survive.
As the withdrawal began to subside, and my mind became clear again, I was distraught to realize why my husband had kept me living in a drug-induced fog. Who does that to another person? I was furious at what he’d done to my daughter—to our family—and the lengths he was willing to go to hide it from me.
We’ll get you through this
That awful year brought so many hurdles—my recovery, my divorce, conflict with my in-laws, the trial, my kids in foster care. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without my parents’ support. Whenever I was afraid or wrestling with doubt, they assured me, “We’re here for you. We’ll get you through this.” And they absolutely did.
To bring my kids back home, I had to demonstrate that I could safely care for them on my own. The first steps toward that goal were securing an income and a place for us to live. Because of my medical condition, my dad thought I might qualify for social security. He drove me to my appointment and, before I went inside, he said, “Let’s pray and ask God for help.”
I waited in line, talked with a lady in the office, and walked out with SSI—supplemental security income—which is nearly impossible to qualify for on the first try. With this resource in hand, I began looking for an apartment.
I was nervous about living on my own, and my dad helped me find an apartment just down the road from my parents’ house. “You won’t be alone,” he said. “We’ll come and visit.” I also had a friend who kept me company on Sundays. We’d eat together and play with her kids in the pool. I loved that she brought her kids to my home. Playing with her kids eased some of my anxiety about not having my kids close.
It’s quite a change to go from having your kids with you all the time, in your home, to seeing them one hour a week in supervised foster care visits. I could see their anxiety, and I was anxious too, knowing I was being observed and wondering if I could actually parent them when we were together. If they got into a squabble, which happens with four kids, would I be judged for correcting them? Judged if I didn’t?
The hour always went by so fast, like it was over before it had begun. Our visits often ended with tears, and I’d will myself to be strong for my kids and assure them everything would be OK.
My three boys were returned to my care after seven months—sooner than any of us had anticipated. My one-bedroom apartment wasn’t going to work. So my parents invited us to live with them at their house. My sister and her son, who had been living with my parents, agreed to take over the remainder of my one-year lease. And when Mom and Dad returned to Florida the next winter, my sister and her son moved back to my parents’ house with us. We always had a safe place to be, and we were never alone.
My family went out of their way to care for me, and they did the same for my daughter. My older sister and her husband became licensed foster parents so my daughter could have a safe and familiar place to begin healing. My sister and I had a strong relationship before, but this experience brought us even closer. During that difficult, vulnerable time, they helped raise my daughter. And I’ll never forget that kindness.
I began to feel whole again
I believe God answers prayers, and it was an answer to prayer when my daughter rejoined our family in just under a year. And there was more good news to come.
I applied for a section eight voucher for affordable housing, which typically takes years to qualify. Only 10 vouchers were available in my county in 2010, and I got the last one. My kids and I were able to start over—together—in our own three-bedroom house.
But our story didn’t magically resolve once we were all back home.
Of course, that was a major milestone, but we still needed help dealing with the trauma we’d all been through. So much damage had been done. So much trust had been broken. My daughter and I both went to counseling, individually and with each other, to work on repairing our relationship.
We also did family counseling, and that made a big difference. It helped knit us back together as a family. Using games, activities, and art, our counselors showed us how we could work together to solve problems. We talked about what we needed from each other to feel safe, and we came up with our own family rules.
Little by little, the kids built back their trust in me and in each other.
Our Bethany caseworker fought for our family too. She worked tirelessly for us, making sure my kids had what they needed. Social workers are extraordinary people, called to make a difference. They have a very tough job helping families get through a crisis, never knowing what they’re walking into on any given day.
Ten years later, my kids are grown, but we’re still working through our trauma in our own ways, in our own time. We’re aware of our triggers, and we know it’s OK to ask for help when we need it.
In my worst moments, I didn’t know if or how I could ever put the broken pieces back together. But with my family’s love and total support, I began to feel whole again. It was so tangible, the way they had my back; I felt it, and it changed me forever. I was never alone, and I know I’ll never be alone in anything again because I have my family—100%.
Family changes everything. On one side of the family was generational abuse that tore our family apart. But on the other side was generational love and support. The way my family fought for me gave me the strength to fight for my kids.
And that’s changed everything too.