The girls today, ages 5 and almost 3. Photo by Neree Jackson | StudioYou
Lily and Mae weren’t living a fairytale.
Jason and Kristy are loving and dedicated parents to Lily and Mae.
Lately, however, they had been finding it more and more difficult to provide the kind of stability in life they so desperately wanted for their girls–because neither of them had experienced it themselves while growing up.
Jason grew up in a home with two older brothers and a single mother who worked two jobs and just wasn’t able to be home much. Kristy grew up an only child in a home that often smelled of alcohol, and where there was little else in the cupboards–much less anything to eat.
Jason and Kristy worked opposite shifts to avoid childcare costs for their little girls. The strain of feeling like a single parent had begun to wear on each of them. Jason started to allow more and more TV time for the girls because it was just “easier,” and Kristy started smoking again, despite the fact that she had “given it up for good” when she found out she was pregnant with Lily. Due to the combination of stress, a lack of healthy role models, and sheer exhaustion, both parents had resorted to raising their voices as a parenting technique–and lately it had been happening more frequently.
Despite the challenges, Jason and Kristy were working hard to maintain employment, keep food on the table, and hopefully make it to the park for some fresh air on those rare evenings when the entire family was together.
Then one morning about six months ago, Jason came home after working a night shift, saw Kristy off to work, and settled in to play with the girls. After a while, Jason put on a movie so he could lie down on the couch and rest his eyes. About a half-hour later, he woke up to several sharp knocks at the door. Jason sat up and looked around with a sick feeling in his gut. Mae was asleep on the floor with her favorite blanket. He answered the door and met one of his neighbors, who had Lily by the hand.
The neighbor was kind but clearly bothered by the fact that a four-year-old was able to leave her house and wander to another residence without anyone noticing. Jason had only dozed off for about 10 minutes, and at that point, Lily decided she wanted to play outside.
Ten days later, Bridges of Hope received a referral from Social Services regarding this family. Following the incident, the concerned neighbor phoned the child protection department and made a report. We work with families in these sorts of situations, when it is clear the parents haven’t been blatantly abusive, but some support may be needed to prevent anything more serious from happening in the future.
A Bridges of Hope staff member contacted Jason and Kristy and after meeting with them a few times in their home, identified several ways that Bridges could help.
One short-term solution was access to our Crisis Nursery Services, which allowed Jason to get the rest he needed without jeopardizing the girls’ safety–while the family worked on a long-term solution for balancing childcare and work. We helped them apply for a scholarship to a local preschool, and they received a partial scholarship. To make room for this added expense, we helped Jason and Kristy adjust a few items in their budget. Lily, a very bright little girl, was thrilled about going to “big girl school,” and Jason was able to structure some “rest time” for both himself and Mae while Lily was at school.
The other support that Bridges was able to offer was for Kristy after she confided that it was getting harder and harder for her to cope with some of the difficult issues from her childhood, and that there were times that she thought about “just being done with all of it.” She made it clear that she didn’t feel as though she or her girls were in any immediate danger, she just really wanted someone to talk to, soon.
Using our good working relationship with local mental health agencies, we were able to get Kristy an appointment to see a counselor later that same week. After the first session, Kristy reported that the counselor was a great fit for her and that she would like to continue attending monthly appointments, but that the co-pays didn’t fit into their already tight budget. Bridges of Hope was able to utilize internal funding to help cover the cost of the co-pays so Kristy could continue seeing the counselor for the next six months.
Jason, Kristy, Lily, and Mae stayed involved with Bridges of Hope for about four months. Reflecting on the experience, Jason said, “At first when Bridges called us, I was kind of upset about it–because of what had happened and everything, but I agreed to do it for my girls, because they’re what matter most anyway. Now I’m glad we got connected with Bridges before anything got out of hand. We just didn’t have anyone else to help us out before. But we do now.”
Today, Jason and Mae are getting the rest they need, Kristy has cut way back on her smoking (and hopes to quit by summer), and Lily is so excited to be off to Kindergarten in the fall–and we’ve noticed that the girls even smile more. Jason and Kristy also report feeling more rested and at peace (and that there are fewer raised voices in the house), and they say that working with Bridges of Hope has made a huge difference.
While this story has a good ending; sadly, for far too many children in our community, the story does not end well. Bridges of Hope is dedicated to supporting families and reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect. We all play a part in strengthening families and promoting children’s safety and well-being.
YOU Can Change the Story for Children like Lily and Mae:
>>Make a gift to support our prevention work with families. $150 supports our work with one family.
>>Refer a family who could use some extra support to Bridges of Hope. A staff member can talk with them about their unique situation and how we can help.
>>Pray for our work (view our most recent Prayer Calendar here).