11 Oct Hope & Wholeness: Jasmine’s Story
Growing up, I had no concept of home. We moved yearly, if not more frequently. Each year a different school and no prospect of making friends, why get close to anyone when you might not see them in a few months any way. My dad, although in mine and my brother’s life early on, was out of the picture by the time I was seven years old. Heroin, and the lifestyle that entailed, guided my mother’s choices and life for me and my four siblings was chaotic, unstable and completely out of our control. As a consequence of the lifestyle that she lived, we were put in situations that no child should have to experience. I was a voiceless shadow full of anger, fear, and hurt, I yearned for my mother’s love and attention but drugs and men consumed her.
My siblings and I stayed with my grandmother off and on. Sometimes my mother would show up with food, other times she would take us pan handling with her. We would sit on the street corner while she begged for money to feed us. Once she had enough, she would send us into the store to buy food and then make us eat it behind the store. When we were done she would have us come back to the street corner while she continued begging to feed her habit. Nothing was permanent.
We also lived with our grandfather for a short while. Living with my grandpa, I often walked on egg shells, never knowing when my grandpa would explode in rage. I tip toed, trying not to anger him and spent my days playing with my cousins and siblings and hanging out in the library across the street. My mother showed up one day, with hopes to take my siblings and I away from our grandpa. Only I and my little sister ended up going with her. That first night we spent in a motel. We were awoken in the middle of the night to loud banging on the door, my grandpa had found us and was attempting to break down the door. We climbed out of the back window, climbed under fences and hid under bushes in the rain. The next morning we found that the tires had been slashed. We spent the next several days on the streets, eating at the mission and staying at drug houses.
My mom eventually got us all back and we moved to Spokane, I was 8 years old. Things seemed almost stable for a while. My mom was working even though she was still using drugs and her boyfriend was selling them. But we had a roof over our heads and I had just started third grade. One day at school, my two brothers and I got called to the counselor’s office. She told us that we would not be going home, Children’s Services placed my little sister and I in one foster home and my brothers in a separate home. I found out later that our house had been raided and my mom and her boyfriend were sent to jail. And just like that my whole world had been pulled out from under my feet, I was terrified. For some time my mom was not allowed visitation with my siblings and me. I remember just as school was getting out one day my mom showed up with a bag of toys, my foster parent quickly ushered me in the car and we drove away. I cried, not understanding why I could not see my mom. I prayed every night for God to help my mom get off of drugs and make us a family again.
Eventually, my siblings and I were placed in my grandma’s care. There, we basically had to fend for ourselves. My older brother and I did our best to feed ourselves and our two younger siblings. Our meals consisted of boxed mac n cheese, ramen noodles, and microwaved eggs. I remember on Thanksgiving, my grandpa sent us a pre-made Thanksgiving feast. My brother and I re-heated the food, and my siblings and I had our little Thanksgiving. We always looked forward to the first of the month because my grandma would treat us to dinner at a restaurant or buffet.Though we lived a block from our school, we would often stay home or be sent home because of head lice. Our grandma was ill and was not equipped to care for us. We were again placed in separate foster homes. My older sister and I were placed in one foster home, while my brothers and little sister were placed in another foster home that was out in the country. After my older sister ran away from the foster home we shared, I was placed in yet another home with an older couple. Although, these foster homes provided my siblings and I with the stability we needed, we were missing the emotional comfort of being together. I was alone and missed my brothers and sisters. I poured myself into school work because it was the one thing that I could control. I, eventually, was placed in the foster home in the country with three of my siblings, and transferred to another school. All the while my mom had finished a treatment program near Yakima and was being moved to another treatment program to begin the process of regaining custody. Our CPS worker told my mother about the Hutton Settlement and she fought to get us placed there, at the opposition of our Guardian Ad Litem, grandpa and foster parents, so that we could all be together and be near her.
I was placed at The Hutton Settlement when I was 11 years old, along with three of my siblings, whose ages ranged from 5 years old to 13 years old at the time. After all that we had been through in those 3 years before Hutton, having been in four different foster homes and separated for 1 ½ of those years, The Hutton Settlement was a stark contrast to the lack of security we had experienced. My brothers lived in a separate home, or “cottage,” than me and my little sister on the Hutton campus but we saw each other every day. I excelled in school and made friends. I was given the stability and nurturance to move beyond a state of fear and helplessness for the first time in my life.
We went to school every day, had three meals a day and after school snacks, chores, study hours and tutors, caring Houseparents, and a community of support staff that want children to thrive. Hutton quickly became our home. We would visit our mom on weekends and holidays. After a year and a half, my mom was able to get clean, find a job and a home and was granted custody of me and my siblings. Initially, I, and my younger sister moved back with her, while my brothers chose to stay at Hutton. I spent about 6 months with my mother before returning to Hutton, I missed my friends, my school and my Hutton family. At Hutton, I discovered my passion for art and helping others. Our education coordinator at the time, along with some of the older campus youth started a community service group, called SALUTE or Service and Leadership United Through Education. I became a member of this group and regularly volunteered at various community organizations such as Campus Kitchens, Habitat For Humanity, Relay for Life through the American Cancer Society, Christmas Elf helpers for Santa Express, and we also held a clothing and toiletries drive for refugees in Spokane. I eventually became the president of SALUTE and had the opportunity to build a home for a family in Mexico through Amor Ministries as well as build a community garden on the Hutton campus. I learned the value of gratitude and giving back to the community. The staff at Hutton became my mentors, encouraging me to cultivate my voice and my passion for creating art and helping others heal. They modeled for me how to live with courage, discipline and compassion. They also helped me recognize my own resilience. I have had the opportunity to manage the yearly Hutton Christmas tree farm fundraiser for the past four years.
Though I lived at Hutton for six years of my life, my connection to Hutton I know will be lifelong. It is such a special and unique place that helps children who come from a broken past, journey toward wholeness. While not every child at Hutton has the same story, the Hutton Community works endlessly to provide each child opportunities and nurturing that will help them to be resilient. My heart is filled with gratitude to have had the experiences I have had, good and bad. I have learned so much from my Hutton family and mentors in my life, especially my mom. She fought her way through addiction and a traumatic past of her own and could have easily hardened herself to the cruelties of the world yet, remains a soft, empathic, and compassionate soul determined to help vulnerable and voiceless people find their voices and heal from trauma. I, now, have this same determination, having recently graduated with my BA in Psychology with an Art minor, to continue my education to attain a degree in Art Therapy. With this training, I hope to positively impact and foster healing and hope in the lives of children who have experienced abuse, trauma, and hopelessness. Having worked to have a healthy relationship with my mom, I, now, get privilege of watching her be an amazing parent and grandparent to my children. I, now, have the insight, support and personal resources that I need to break the cycle of abuse that my mother inherited. I, now, have the tools required to raise my two children in a nurturing environment. One in which they have unconditional love so that they can grow without fear of abandonment, in which they are taught courage, gratitude and compassion for all walks of life. My experiences thus far have taught me that home is not a place, but instead the people that nurture, comfort us, and provide the safety and security we need to grow and spread our branches. While, my early years did not provide me with a sense of home, I have since planted deep roots.