Reunited – A Mom’s Fight to get her Children Home

I’m the mom that struggles,
but I’m the mom that never gives up.  

Stephany is a mom of three wonderful children. She’s lived in Columbia nearly all her life. She went to school at Rock Bridge and Douglass High Schools. Although she admits, she didn’t finish. Four years ago, her two youngest children, then 11 and 12 years old, were taken away from her and placed into foster care. 

Stephany shares, “I can’t remember a time when drugs weren’t a part of my life. I’ve never known a life without drugs. Between my family and myself, I’ve always been around drugs.”

“I was an hour away in a rehab center when I got the call from the Children’s Division who said, ‘We’ve taken protective custody of your children.’ Can you imagine that phone call? I think the whole place heard me wailing. I just sobbed. They took my heart, they took my air, they took my everything.”

“Drugs had such a hold on me before that moment. But something clicked for me then. I was willing to do whatever I needed to get my children back. “

When children come into protective custody/foster care, a case worker must put together a case file. This justifies the reasons children are in care and why the Department of Social Services had to step in to remove the children from their biological family’s home. This also explains the steps the biological parent(s) must complete to get their children back. The first goal of foster care across the country is reunification. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, of the estimated 247,631 children who exited foster care during FY 2017: 49% were reunited with parent(s) or primary caretaker(s).  

Stephany recalls, “I told my children, share everything. Tell the truth and tell everything. This is our restart. I want to set you free from the lies, from the hiding. I wanted them to be honest with their case worker about our life prior and prove that I wasn’t that person anymore. I constantly asked the case worker, what’s next? What hoops do you need me to jump through? I’m going to do everything and do it quickly to get my children back home.”

Stephany’s two children were placed at the Atherton Home at Coyote Hill in 2015. Their Home Parents, Brian and Mandy Wallace were their first foster parents.

Photo by: Marta Payne

Stephany remembers, “When my children were placed at Coyote Hill I didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as I talked to them on the phone, there was something in their [Brian and Mandy’s] voices. I could tell my children would be safe.  
I still didn’t know if I was going to be able to see my kids, but Mandy & Brian made every effort to bring my kids to me. I got to go to Six Flags with all of Coyote Hill. I went to my son’s football games. I didn’t miss birthdays. I wasn’t going to miss anything.”

six flags family trip
Atherton Home at Six Flags

They [Brian and Mandy] did anything and everything they could to help me. If it wasn’t for Coyote Hill I don’t think I would have been able to see my kids. I think every kid should go to Coyote Hill. I wish there were more Coyote Hills. They made it easy. I think it makes a difference.

Mandy was equally encouraged by her interactions with Stephany. She recalls, “Seeing their mom work so hard, was something special. We didn’t always see that. Even though she didn’t have a car, she would walk to meet her kids for visits. I think one of the things that made the biggest difference, was she didn’t see Coyote Hill, or myself as their foster parent, as a stumbling block. This was her chance to get herself healthy and she trusted and was grateful that her children were well cared for.”

During the 11 months that Stephany’s children lived at Coyote Hill, she continued outpatient rehab, they did family counseling, and her two children received individual counseling. Each of these things were vital to reuniting this family. I kept telling my kids, 

“I didn’t leave you. I just needed help. Every day since they’ve been home, I’ve done something to better myself. I can’t go back and change those things but I can change now.”   

— Stephany

Stephany’s been a driver for Taxi Terry for four years and takes pride in earning a living for her children that doesn’t require state assistance. She and her children live together in Columbia.

Stephany’s family trip to the beach this past summer.

Coyote Hill works with biological parents to piece their families back together. If this is something you want to know more about, and how you can help, subscribe to our emails and get updates that matter.