Last week, I (Mandy) shared about how grace is sufficient! I shared about sweet Emma and the sadness and joy that followed her leaving my home 2 years ago! If you didn't get a chance to read that blog, you can read that blog by clicking the link below:
This week I wanted to introduce you to Emma's mom, Katie Lattimore! The first time I met Katie, I wasn't expecting to meet her! I wasn't prepared and I don't think she was either. However, as a foster mom and mom in general, there is something that connects me with birth moms! I feel a pull towards them and always want them to feel loved, even by me! So, when I met Katie, we made eye contact and she handed her precious newly born baby back to me and I remember just seeing the sadness in her eyes! Sadness that she was having to hand HER child back to a total stranger. But I also saw strength in her eyes! I knew in that moment that this mom truly loved her daughter and it ripped her apart having to hand her over to me.
Katie, as you know, did what was required of her and got her sweet Emma back! I remember feeling such sadness (that we would no longer get to love on Emma) but so much joy that this mama had fought so hard for her baby girl! I wish I could say you see Reunification happen often, but unfortunately it's not something we have seen very much in our experience so far as foster parents!
That is why I wanted to have Katie share in this blog! Katie and I both wanted to encourage birth parents who may have children currently in the system! We wanted to give hope to birth parents who are struggling with addiction or simply feel they can't do it! The truth is: You can! You are strong! You are loved! You are valued!
I asked Katie a series of questions and I'm going to share those with you now as well as her responses to those questions but FIRST: Katie, THANK YOU for the example you have set for so many people! THANK YOU for fighting for your children and for what is right, even when it was difficult! THANK YOU for showing kindness, gentleness and love to me and my family, when you didn't have to! You will always be special to us just like Emma will always be special to us!
1. What led your child into the foster care system? I had been using methamphetamines for about three years. I had already had one daughter and she was about 4 months old at the time that I started using. Me and her dad just couldn't get along. After we broke up I got into a really bad abusive relationship (physically, mentally and emotionally). That same guy was using methamphetamines through IV use. I don't know why I stayed with him for so long but now that I think back on it I'm sure the main reason why is because he was supplying me with drugs. Anyways, we stayed together for about two years and I was using meth through IV use also. I was on birth control too and I guess I didn't think I could get pregnant even though I know I wasn't taking them like I was suppose to. I guess I thought that maybe if I did get pregnant he would change. I ended up getting pregnant after we had been through hell being together for two years. I honestly didn't want to even keep the baby but I didn't believe in abortion. By the time I found out I was pregnant I was already in my second trimester.So, I decided to keep the baby! And now I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. The whole time I was pregnant I was using meth through IV and he was supplying me with it. He would taunt me with it even though he knew I was pregnant with his child. I’m not placing blame on anyone. I know I'm a grown woman but having it thrown in my face didn't help. When I was in my last month of pregnancy, about four weeks before my due date, I thought I felt my water break and when I looked down it was nothing but gushing blood like water. I rushed to the hospital and they had to preform an emergency C-section because my placenta had ruptured and my baby almost died. The doctors knew that stuff like that didn't just happen naturally of course. They tested the blood from my placenta and it came back positive for methamphetamines. They reported it to DSS and the next day the social worker came to talk to me and told me I couldn’t leave the hospital with my baby and I had to set up kinship care with a family member. DSS also told me I had to take drug classes at Phoenix Counseling and get clean so I could get my baby back. When I got out of the hospital I was still hanging out with my ex and still using methamphetamines, even after they took my baby. I was still failing drug tests in class and not taking it seriously. After a month of my cousin keeping her DSS found out that I was still failing all my drug test so they took my baby and put her in foster care. I could only see her once a week at DSS during supervised visits and I had mandatory drug test from DSS and Phoenix minimally twice a week. When she had been with my cousin, I had kept my baby (Emma) all during the day at my house from like 7:00a.m til 8:00p.m everyday except when I had classes, then my cousin would come get me and then drop me and my baby off and then come back at night to pick her up and she stayed with my cousin over night. At the same time, my other daughter (who was 2 at the time) was also restricted to not being able to stay the night at my house so I got her during the day also. But having to tell her that she couldn’t stay the night with mommy killed me. Watching her cry every night when she had to leave with her dad. But, I guess that's why I didn't take it seriously at first because it wasn’t like I really lost them. They were just staying the night somewhere else and then coming home in the morning. So, when she got taken to foster care is when I started taking it serious and I got clean.
2. How did your child being in the foster care system make you feel as a mother? When my child got taken into foster care I felt like a piece of shit!!! I felt like I failed as a mother! I failed myself, my mother, my dad and brothers, my whole family, and worst of all I failed my two beautiful daughters! The two people that depended on me the most, that I gave life to, that admired me and looked up to me as their role model, I failed them!! It made me feel like I failed doing the one duty that I had as a mother, which was to protect my children and give them a good life.
3. How did you feel towards your child’s foster parent? Well at first I didn’t really know who Emma’s foster parents were going to be and I didn’t get a chance to meet them and have a relationship with them until after I had gotten custody back of Emma. I had met them once when they were coming to pick her up after one of my visits with her and I felt almost 100% better about the situation after meeting them because I realized what great people they were and I realized that they were genuinely nice, good hearted, good Christian people and that made my heart feel at ease almost immediately after meeting them!! And I’m not just saying that because y’all were my foster parents either. I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart. But, at first, I can’t lie, I was scared to death because I had heard so many horror stories about foster parents and I had seen thing on the news about how bad some foster parents could be and I was scared to death. I also think a lot of my emotions towards the situation were coming from jealousy. That’s only because I was jealous of someone else being able to take care of my kid and I couldn’t.
4. What was it like working with social workers to develop a plan with getting your child back (was it a positive experience or a negative one)? Having to work with a social worker to develop a plan to get my kid back was both positive and negative. I say negative because the first social worker I had was terrible. She was picky and pretentious and she made me feel like there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would ever get my kid back because she gave me a chance during kinship care and I blew it. When Emma got taken to actual foster care and taken out of my cousin’s house they switched my social worker to a different lady! She was amazing! She gave me hope! She made me feel like I wasn’t alone and made me like I actually had a chance to get my baby back. She helped me every way she possibly could. So my relationship with my social worker was amazing!!
5. How did you work your plan to get your child back? Well I worked my plan by being completely honest with myself, my family, and my social worker. That is the main part of the whole experience, to me anyways, was learning how to be honest and learning how to own up to my mistakes and take responsibility for them. That along with staying clean and changing my peer group. I have always been told if u want change then u have to completely change everything u know. That means changing friends, changing habits, environment, hobbies, EVERYTHING!! I also attended AA and NA meetings at least two to three times a week in order to develop new friendships and relationships. I went to intensive outpatient classes at Phoenix Counseling Center and I made sure that I was on time and that I was there everyday. At Phoenix they also made us take drug test that were observed at least every other day, and I passed them. I made sure that I showed up to EVERY SINGLE COURT DATE, professionally dressed and not looking like a bum. I took RANDOM drug test for DSS weekly, and I passed them. And I developed a relationship with my social worker, and I knew that I could talk to her about anything that I had problems with and she wasn’t going to hold it against me as long as I was honest. And most importantly, I NEVER MISSED A VISIT WITH MY BABY!!! If you truly love your kids and want them to be in ur life and you want to get custody back of them then you have to do it the right way, being drug free and being honest. And I wouldn’t recommend getting clean just long enough to get them back and then start using again, that’s what I did and I almost died. That’s a whole different story thou, but now I’m clean again and I have managed to stay that way for about 8 months now, and that’s not because of DSS or court, it’s because that’s what’s best for me and my kids. 6. Describe how it felt when reunification happened with your child? When I was reunited with my kid it was the most amazing feeling in the world. I had completed and graduated all my drug abuse classes, my psychological evaluations, and passed all my drug test with no slip ups for DSS and Phoenix. So, being able to accomplish all that and stay clean for a year was the biggest accomplishment I had ever had in my lifetime! Especially because before that I hadn’t had a sober day in my life since I was about 12 years old. It was the most amazing feeling ever to be able to do that and be able to show my family and my kids how much I loved my them and to prove to them that I would do anything for my babies and to make sure I had them in my life.
7. Share any other thoughts or details that you would want people to know? The one thing I would want other people to know, is that it’s ok to mess up. And it’s ok to admit that you have a problem, AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T LAST FOREVER AND YOU FIX IT!! There is help out there, but you can’t receive the help if you don’t admit that you have a problem and stop to reevaluate your self and fix the problem. And most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP!! No matter what everyone may tell you, always remember that everyone’s situation is different and not everyone may tell you the whole truth about their own situation. They may only tell you what they want you to know. So don’t give up. YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN GET YOUR CHILDREN BACK! Stay focused and don’t give up!! 8. Do you feel it’s important for people to foster or adopt? I definitely feel it is important for other people to foster or adopt. I mostly feel like it’s important for people like me to know that it’s ok to mess up. I feel like having my baby taken to foster care was a blessing in disguise because I know what I was doing wasn’t right and I know that I never would have gotten clean if my kids were not taken away from me. Having my baby taken to foster care gave me time to focus on me and gave me time to help myself get right and better myself to become a better mother to my children. As much as I hated it and missed my babies it was actually the best thing that happened to me because I’m a much better mother because of it and I know I pay more attention to my babies because of it. I know my babies love me more because of it also.
So, thank you Mandy and Jeff for taking care of my baby while I was focusing on becoming a better mother! I couldn’t have done it with out y’all. And I know how wonderful of people y’all are now because of it. And I have also gotten the chance to share my story because of y’all. So if I am able to help someone else then that makes me feel so much better about my experience.