It Takes a Village

by Kim Hemmert

Humans are social creatures. We lived in families, families live in communities, communities make up society. We need each other. The more connected we are, the better able we are to navigate this world and get our needs met.

As a child, Lia experienced sexual abuse which shaped the way she thought of herself and her worth. She moved in with her grandparents when she was 12 to get away from her abuser. The abuse continued and she experienced gaslighting as she was told she was a liar. At age 14 she said, “enough was enough, my body is my body,” and strongly advocated for better personal boundaries. She felt alone without a champion to support her.

Lia got married in 2012 and currently has three children. After each child was born, she experienced severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Lia experienced immense amounts of guilt and shame and felt like a failure when she couldn’t successfully breastfeed. After working through the shame of not being able to breastfeed, Lia encountered more roadblocks. She noticed that her both of her daughters weren’t hitting their developmental milestones. Her pediatrician was extremely helpful and connected Lia with the Infant Toddler Program. There she began to receive supportive services for delays in gross and fine motor and language development, and well as additional therapies.

One challenge after another put a lot of stress on Lia. Her kids had food allergies and sensory issues. Each baby was colicky. She had two miscarriages. Her husband lost his job. One baby had pulmonary hypertension and spent time in the NICU. “I was doing the very best I could, but it wasn’t good enough.” Lia recognized she was struggling and at her wits end when she had a mental breakdown, experienced suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, and was admitted to the psychiatric ward.

At this time child protection became involved. The children were removed from the home and placed in foster care. While this was devastating to Lia, she fought hard to be reunited with her kids. Her husband cleaned up the house, and Lia got her meds on track. The social worker commended Lia on the strong attachment bonds her kids displayed during visits and was impressed with Lia’s ability to discipline and redirect her kids. The children returned home, and life seemed more stable for a time.

It wasn’t long before child protection was involved again, but this time was different. Lia was having seizures and couldn’t walk or talk. The stress she was experiencing was causing her body to shut down and she spent a week in the hospital. The case worker said, “You need more support. You don’t need these kids taken away.” This was the best news for Lia and her family!

Lia connected with Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) Safe Families program instead of entering foster care again. LCSNW provided the support Lia and her family needed. Through their network of vetted volunteers, they provided emotional support, social connections, meals, childcare, clothes, helped plan a birthday party, and respond with an epi pen in an emergency.

With the assistance of Safe Families, Lia and her family have been able to connect with other community resources. “It’s why these agencies are so important,” says Lia. She started working with a therapist. After her kiddo received an autism diagnosis, she was connected to resources and supports needed for development. Her relationship with her husband has improved. Through her experience with Safe Families, Lia has hope for the future, “Perfection isn’t real. Just have happy kids that don’t have to struggle so much.”

Her advice to others, “It may seem like a lonely process but it’s not. The connection with others is what’s going to get you through. Reaching out for help is not a matter of failure. There are people willing to help. You have to be willing to ask, because people don’t know what you need. I love Safe Families. They are amazing!”

Our work at the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund (ICTF) promotes the five Protective Factors: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. These Protective Factors and the building blocks of HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences) promote optimal development so individuals and communities thrive. We are grateful for Lia and her willingness to share her story, and for all the work that Lutheran Community Services Northwest Safe Families program does to bring hope to people in need.

If you would like to know more about programs and organizations founded in the protective factors and HOPE, or want to get involved, contact the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund.

Lutheran Community Services Northwest is a current ICTF multiyear and annual grantee recipient.