Taya Others_049

“I didn’t know what to expect — definitely not love.”

When your mom is a single woman addicted to methamphetamine, it’s not uncommon to be removed from your home. That’s how 18-year-old Taya’s story began.

Taya was just two years old when social workers removed her from her mother’s home. Two-year-olds, after all, shouldn’t be so desperate for food as to eat out of the garbage, but that’s what her grandma witnessed before officially calling for help. Initially, authorities moved Taya to a foster home, but after a few weeks she was able to join her brother and sister at her grandparents’ home.

There she felt safe and loved and was able to enjoy a sense of childhood. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. As her mom alternated between sobriety and drug use, so did Taya’s home, moving her back and forth between her mom’s and her grandparents’.

At age 12, Taya witnessed her then-sober mom unravel on the news of her uncle’s death. She describes the time as overwhelming. She was an adolescent with no dad, an uncle who had just died and a mom who was using again.

“I did what I’ve seen people do all my life. My uncle smoked. My neighbor drank. My mom used meth,” says Taya. “I began smoking cigarettes and weed and started drinking to escape pain. By 8th grade, I tried meth, snorting it and smoking it.”

Her drug use led to more bad decisions and an unhealthy peer group. She skipped school, became sexually active, physically aggressive and disrespectful, even to her beloved grandparents.

Her truancy caught the attention of the county, and more moves followed. In one four-year span, she moved six times between group homes and three different residential treatment centers. She also lost her best friend to an overdose, her grandma to natural causes and was assaulted three times. She still has blurriness in one eye from one of the attacks. Taya says her wake-up call came in the last of those centers.

“I was disconnected from my family again. I was scared. I was not in control, and I felt unloved, unsupported. I realized I was not going home, and I didn’t want to be like my mom,” says Taya.

“She just keeps doing drugs. She has no home, no money and can’t keep jobs for more than two months. She has six kids, and she can’t keep any of them either. I don’t want that for anyone else, especially my little sister. I don’t want her to grow up without supportive people around her.”

Taya was ready for change two years ago when a county worker told her they’d found her a foster care home. She worked hard to improve herself in that home. “My grades in school improved, I stayed sober, joined track and field at school and started making friends with healthier peer groups,” she says. “I was proud of myself!”

But the placement didn’t work out. Taya broke strict family rules when she was caught using a friend’s phone at school to check on her sister. Her foster parents isolated her in response, and Taya was frustrated seeing no way to earn privileges—like using a telephone. “The mom didn’t want me anymore,” says Taya.

That’s when a social worker placed Taya in Family & Children’s Center’s Treatment Foster Care (TFC) program in Diane’s home. TFC employs a trauma-informed care model with a multi-disciplinary team approach (including access to in-house social workers, therapists, a clinical supervisor and a child psychiatrist) to provide intensive, specialized support for each TFC family and child in placement depending on their needs.

Taya Others_025“I was told the new home would be way better, but I didn’t know what to expect—definitely not love,” says Taya. But love is exactly what Taya found.

“I feel worth. I feel that someone is proud of me and my growth and changes,” says Taya. “I told myself, I’d never call anyone else ’Mom.’ I call Diane Mom. We go for walks, movie nights; we just do everything. It’s the first time I feel like I have a family. She does a lot for me and supports me. I feel loved.”

Taya’s progress is reinforced in weekly therapy sessions, where she learns additional coping skills and sharpens what she’s learning from Diane.

Diane also helps Taya see the big picture when it comes to challenges at school. Taya’s grades improved and she begins college classes this fall. She hopes to become a social worker and would like to work for Family & Children’s Center someday.

“I want to do something that involves kids,” Taya says. “My story can help others. If kids know that I’ve been through what they’re going through—showing that from my low point of life to becoming a social worker—they’ll see that they can still go on to have a great future. I want them to see, like I did, that they can have better tomorrows too.”