“In 2011 I was in a bicycle accident that landed me in the ICU. My liver was lacerated and one of my kidneys was damaged. My right lung was collapsed, and I was internally bleeding. When I was in the ICU I was robbed by the people I was staying with. I had all of my things in storage and they found my key. I returned from the hospital with nothing and no place to live.
I even lost my kids because of the wreck. The Sacramento court system really screwed up. I had full custody of my kids, and their father had never been to the court date in five years. We had been through mediation and he never showed up. I had filed for a domestic violence restraining order that was never picked up on. The courts said that he needed to anger management and parenting classes before he could have visitation of the children. While I was in the hospital, he filed and said I had abandoned our kids and the courts believed it. And without going through our case or reading any of it, they granted him temporary custody. So when I got out of the hospital, I got out to absolutely nothing. I didn’t even know where my children were.”
“When I explained myself to the court, they apologized but said: ‘Because you have no place to live and nowhere to take the kids, we’re going to let the father keep custody of them for the time being’. And I come to find out that they weren’t legally allowed to do that. I’m finding that out right now as I’m here at St. John’s.
This was five years ago and I’m still fighting the courts. They’ve gotten away with it because I’ve had no lawyer. I’ve represented myself up against their lawyer. Because when you’re homeless or broke, the courts look at you like you’re a drug addict, like you are scum. Eventually, after having my new baby, I felt I had to make a decision to leave my kids where they were because I knew they were safe and well taken care of. Emotionally and mentally I could not keep going and still be the mom to this new baby. In my head, I didn’t know how to do both. I felt this new baby was going to be neglected emotionally. So that’s what I did. I put it on hold and became the mom to him that I was to them. That’s what he deserved. It was no one’s fault. It was just things that happened. I have two kids here with me and still am fighting to get back the other three.”
“My dream for my story: trying to get attention to the fact that if my kids and I can slip through the system, how many others have? I’ve been in that courthouse. I’ve seen those kids crying, they’re terrified and they should be. They don’t know what to expect. I constantly have to tell them, “You can do this. Just because you’re up against an attorney, doesn’t mean you are helpless.” Unless it’s CPS or a criminal case, you aren’t guaranteed a lawyer. If it’s a custody case and one parent can afford a lawyer while the other one can’t, who do you think the kids go to? That’s not in the best interest of the child. That’s the number one law that should be changed in the state of California. Because here we are as a nation with the President saying, “Families are first” when we give criminals public defenders but not some of the people who need it most. ”
“I’ve learned to never give up. There are people out there with missing arms and legs, and they’re parents. They struggle every day, but they still raise their kids. They still go to the store. They still go to school and get degrees. What excuse do we have? We’ve got all our limbs and here we are crying and drowning in bottles and taking pills. They’ve got a real life struggle every single day, and those stories aren’t told either. Some man with one leg just climbed Mt. Everest. If they can do this, so can we. We have no excuse. You could be sitting next to a warrior. You could be sitting next to tomorrow’s hero and you wouldn’t even know it. Dr. Phil was homeless. Obama was raised in a single parent home. Look where they are today. They had the will and they knew it. What excuse do I have to give up?”