October 16, 2015

I would never in a million years trade one day with her” – Chelsea’s Story

Posted in Awards, Employees, RPG, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Workforce Development Program at 2:47 pm by Lund

The windows are open in Chelsea’s upstairs apartment at Lund’s transitional housing facility, Independence Place, welcoming in the first warm day of the Spring. Chelsea’s three year old daughter, Serinna, is napping in her bed wrapped in a Minnie Mouse blanket. The breeze blows lazily through the apartment. “Where shall I start?” says Chelsea. “Shall I tell you the whole story?”

She takes a deep breath and begins. Her story rushes through periods of using drugs, homelessness in the cold of the Vermont winter, repeated stints in rehab, losing custody of her daughter, her boyfriend being sent to jail and periods of despair where she couldn’t do anything but sleep all day. The Department of Children and Families became involved with her when Serinna was just over one. She was connected with Lund Substance Abuse screener, Amie Baker and Lund clinician Alice Larned, both of whom work out of the Burlington DCF office as part of ongoing collaborations between DCF and Lund to provide early screening and assessment in families where substance abuse is a concern. It was Amie who helped get her into rehab for the first time, though her time there was very short and unsuccessful.   It was during this time that Serinna wen to live with Chelsea’s mother in law while Chelsea worked so hard to get her back.

Chelsea can’t pinpoint the exact moment that things changed for her but during yet another stint at rehab when there were only a few months left before her parental rights would be permanently terminated, she had a realization. “This is crazy. Serinna misses me so much. I can’t lose her.” So she stuck at it, left rehab successfully but she was homeless and unable to be with Serinna when she left.

That’s when she knew she had to come to Lund’s residential treatment facility. She knew of the program as a DCF worker had mentioned that coming to the program would be the quickest way to regain custody of Serinna. “I came to Lund in September of 2014 and within a month, Serinna was spending some time there with me. She was so happy to be there. she was ecstatic. When she left I would cry and cry and cry. Within another month she was living full time with me and everything changed. I worked all day in group treatment, worked on housing, got Serinna into daycare, got my driver’s license, had three front teeth replaced, joined peer council, started a workforce placement position. And I had stopped using drugs. I moved here into Independence Place after seven months. They had to pick who moved in and I was everyone’s top pick. Lund helped me get everything; this apartment, furniture, money for clothes, a place at a daycare where I don’t have to pay a co-pay. Even Christmas presents. It’s amazing but I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”

Serinna begins to stir, waking from her nap as Chelsea thinks about one last question. “What do I hope for her? I hope she never uses drugs, that she goes to college and we have a great life. I want to get a house and make it good for her, not mess up. I want to her to be happy in school and help her with her homework.   I want her to be a happy healthy girl.”

“I can’t believe I let it go on so long,” she says, pausing to reflect for a minute. “I would never in a million years trade one day with her.”

Chelsea with members of the New Horizons staff and Honoring Ceremony speaker, Ryan Esbjerg.

Chelsea with members of the New Horizons staff at the Honoring Ceremony where she was voted the Kit Stone Humanitarian Award Winner for 2015.

You can read more about Chelsea’s story and her experience with Lund’s Regional Partnership Program in an interview that she recently did with the Burlington Free Press:  Vt Program Guides Parents

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