This is us!
This is my beautiful family and the whole reason why I started my company.
Years ago we were foster parents. We ended up adopting all three of the children we fostered. However, our oldest decided that he wanted to go back to his biological mom. And really, I don't blame him for that. What child wouldn't want to return to a mother that you have a solid bond with? What I had issue with was how he did it. We were accused of some pretty atrocious things. To make matters worse we ended up with an extremely young and inexperienced case worker. And I was naïve and trusted the system I knew from our years of fostering. The caseworker told me from that first day she fully intended on taking all my children from me.
I had just given birth to my youngest two and half months before and was breastfeeding him. I was still dealing with the postpartum from that birth which was made worse given that I threw a blood clot that ended up in my lungs after his birth. My doctor advised me that if I was to get pregnant again I had a 70% chance of dying. I couldn't chance leaving my children without a mother even though I really wanted one more child, hoping for a girl so my adopted daughter would have a little sister as well.
Long story short, the caseworker succeeded by lying to a judge to get all of our children removed. The oldest who had lied to get the process started went into a holding facility. Because there was evidence that he couldn't be trusted with the other children due to the abuse he suffered before being placed with us the next two oldest were placed together in home. And the two youngest were placed in a separate home. That home had a heavy smoker. The foster mom swore that her husband always smoked outside but every visit they came reeking of smoke and it was in their clothes and blankets. We were able to get them moved from that house to my sister-in-law's care three weeks after they were removed. I got special permission from our new caseworker to go with my sister-in-law to the ER a few days after the children were moved there because the youngest had developed a severe case of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus infection). It was terrifying to watch as they had to suction mucus out of his airways so the medication would be able to reach his lungs and help open up those stressed airways.
Because we knew the system we immediately got busy after the children were removed and took online parenting courses and signed up for another one that was taught locally. We scheduled weekly visits with a counselor as well as setting up a time with a psychologist to be reviewed for the courts. We did so much before the initial meeting with DCS (Department of Children Services) that they didn't have anything to add to our plan to get our children back that we hadn't already started.
That first meeting with their attorney, the caseworker, our attorney, and ourselves is where we learned what the caseworker had said to the judge that issued the removal order and she admitted in front of both attorneys that she had lied. The judge that was assigned the case after the removal was not willing to take that into account. Nor would he even look at the evidence we had that our children were not abused. Our pediatrician put his license on the line and wrote a letter how it was rare that he didn't see me at least 2-3 times a month between the new baby and the other four children. He stated in all the years we had been coming to him, which was from the first time that we had our oldest placed with us, he had never seen any signs of abuse. We had other letters as well, however he stated he had no intention of opening those sealed letters and reading them.
It took almost six months to get our two youngest back. They both have struggled with breathing issues ever since. They eventually were diagnosed with asthma and we have not had many illnesses since that they don't need a breathing treatment. My youngest was so used to needles that nurses were commenting on it by the time he was four. His brother just older had nightmares for years and he struggles with anxiety when I'm not immediately available. He's extremely clingy and his emotions are all over the place when he's stressed even now and he's eleven and a half.
It took another four months after that to get the next two back. They came home with bedbugs in everything. My daughter especially was stressed as she ended up being abused sexually while in the holding facility before being placed in a home. Her older brother, who is a very high functioning autistic, has a harder time dealing with emotions. He would screaming at the top of his lungs for literally hours because that was the only way that helped him get some of the out of control feelings out. And that's even with him seeing a counselor two times a week. He thrives when his environment is controlled. There has to be a system and plan in place. When he has that he feels comforted and is amazingly successful in everything he does. Except driving, at 17 he's still very much a scary driver. I'm so thankful we live in such a rural area.
The oldest child never came back home. And I was okay with that. He did end up back with his biological mother. And for that I'm thankful and I pray that he ended up happy.
We had two federal investigators come to our home shortly after the case with the four youngest was closed. Apparently our case had been red flagged among others. They told us that our children should never have been removed.
We had spent so much money on attorney fees and doctors to get our children back, over 50k, that we ended up filing for bankruptcy. We were paying over $2500 a month alone on child support when all five were in different homes. I ended up being diagnosed with PTSD from losing my children. It took years before I was willing to let them out of my sight for any length of time. We lost our home among other things. So we moved to Idaho where my parents had a home we could purchase from them. I watched and was comforted to see my children slowly begin to heal living next door to their grandparents and my younger brother, his wife, and their children.
It took another year after moving to Idaho for the case against us with the oldest child to be closed. And it didn't happen until the judge retired and we were assigned a new judge. In that first court appearance with him he apologized for how we were treated and stated that after reviewing everything in our case file and reading the letters we had submitted at the very first court appearance that the initial judge refused to read that we had gone above and beyond for all of our children and he didn't see the point in making us continue to suffer. He thanked us, severed our parental rights to the oldest child and closed the case against us.
My health took a sharp dive, I deal with chronic migraines and no longer know what it feels like to not have one. The severity just changes day to day but never goes away. I ended up having a full hysterectomy and dealing with menopause at the age of 35. And years later in 2021, I discovered that I have Bipolar II and have had it since I was a teenager. I am actually relieved by this last one because it gives me a solid direction medically and it makes SO many things in my life make sense.
Given all that, it makes sense that when I started the company back in 2017 that I was searching for stability for my children and myself. I'm teaching my children how to run a business so they have the option of creating one if they choose. That they'll have those skills to fall back on at anytime in their life and create any lifestyle they choose to because of the freedom it gives creates so much gratitude and thankfulness inside me.
I've wanted to tell my story for years but worried about people judging me. And honestly I still do. But those that will aren't my people. I think that you never know what is really going on with others. So many of us choose to hide or keep quiet because of that fear. The problem with that is that those things we bury inside start eating away at us. You have to share them in order to really deal with them. In order to grow and become who we're meant to be. So thank you for taking the time to read a piece of my story.
Just know that every purchase you make supports this small town family and we're so thankful to you. Every purchase gives wings to our dreams.
Wishing you all the best,
Nichole; Mama, Wife, & Entrepreneur
P.S. All my friends call me Nicki