“I had my baby in jail, surrounded by security guards. Two days later, I packed her a bag and kissed her goodbye.” Erika thanks God that her sister was able to drive from her home five hours away; otherwise her baby would still be in foster care. Instead, Erika and her daughter are now reunited at Solutions for Change, building a new life together.
The moment she got pregnant was the moment she changed, says Erika. “I’m already doing so much more for my daughter than my mom ever did. I’m giving her attention and loving her.” Tears of pain stream down Erika’s face as she recounts witnessing physical abuse and attempted suicide at age five, sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather from age 8 to 15, drinking tequila shots with her parents at age 10, and ultimately abandonment by every adult in her life.
“Drugs gave me a shield of protection. I was sleeping in my car at the beach because I had to get away from my family. My only escape was the drugs. I didn’t care about myself or anyone.”
“COVID happened while I was in rehab, which is where I went straight from jail,” describes Erika. “As soon as I got an apartment at Solutions, my sister brought my baby back to me.” She knows that without this safe place to live and work on her economic, spiritual, physical, and emotional health, she would not be faring as well during the pandemic. “If I weren’t here… I don’t know,” she reflects, resisting the thought. “If I were in the street, I would be on drugs. I would lose my daughter.”
The pandemic has meant the longest restrictions ever for residents at Solutions for Change. Even though she knows it’s for her own safety, it’s challenging. “You can’t go anywhere,” says Erika. “I want to hop on a bus and go as far as I can go. No destination needed. Just to go.” But she stays for her daughter. She stays to give her the chance that she never had. “My daughter’s middle name is Dream. I want to support her to do whatever she dreams. I’m not going to hold her back.”
If this story made you aware of one effect of the pandemic that you hadn’t considered, please share it with a friend or on social media.