Teddy Story

Teddy’s Story

“Domestic violence does not know race, status, education, or anything, and it can happen to any of us. For years, I suffered from the abuse. Had I not gotten pregnant, I probably would have stayed. But, when I found out, I knew I had to find a way to escape."

For over seven years, I suffered from an extreme domestic violence situation. It started out as emotional, then financial, and then physical. Domestic violence does not know race, status, education, or anything, and it can happen to any of us. For years, I suffered from the abuse. Had I not gotten pregnant, I probably would have stayed. But, when I found out, I knew I had to find a way to escape.

I was able to break free from my abusive husband and I fled, across the country, to Washington. I left my job, my friends, everything I had ever known. I had a two year old autistic daughter and little more than the clothes we were wearing. But, I was hopeful for a new start and a safe place for my children.

I stayed temporarily with extended family. I became involved with Step By Step, when the WIC office referred me for support for my pregnancy. 

My first case manager was Cheri.  She was very understanding with my situation.  Together, we sat down and prioritized my needs, which were a lot.

I needed safe housing, medical and prenatal care, and I was struggling with depression. Cheri worked really hard with me, especially trying to get me housing and transportation. 

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I stayed positive and took an active role in all the changes in my life. I had people who cared about me. When I finally secured a place to stay, Step By Step was able to help refer me to the Furniture Bank, and I was able to get donated furniture for my new place. Then, in July, Step By Step surprised me with a donated car through their Motors 4 Moms program. When my baby girl was born later that month, they helped make sure I had everything that I needed for my baby.

Since I had moved to a new location since my pregnancy, I was connected with a new case manager, Kris, and an Infant Case Manager, Katie, to help me after my baby was born. Katie has been there for my family in everything. Things were going fairly well, but then a disaster happened. I had been living in my apartment less than 7 months, and there was a fire. I lost everything, including my car.  

It was Katie, Step By Step’s staff, and some generous donors who rallied together to help. I was very much comforted. They made sure we had emergency food, shelter, and clothing. Katie called me often to provide emotional support to help me get through. 

Not long afterwards, I received a very exciting phone call with a job offer with DSHS in Children’s Administration. I had received a Master’s Degree in Social Work, during my time in New York, and I was excited to start a new career and to be able to provide for my family. The first person I called was Katie to tell her the news. I was worried though, because now I didn’t have any office attire! 

Katie was so excited for me, and she brought me a whole entire working wardrobe, along with a dresser!

I started working, but I had to rely on buses to get me there. I would wake up at 4:00 am to get ready for the bus, to make it to the job on time, and I would get home late. It took a toll on me and my family. When I got my first paycheck, I went and bought a car so that I could better manage the time, continue nursing my baby, and have some more sleep. 

Katie has continued to be in our lives and has become a family member to me.  I will never forget Step By Step and all they have done for me. I had the chance to volunteer at their fundraising dinner and auction, and I plan to give back as much as I can, once I settle and stabilize my family.

Life is starting to have a true meaning to me now. I would like to give a special thanks to my three favorite case managers – Cheri, Kris, and Katie. God bless Step By Step, everyone who works there, and all the people who donate to this wonderful, amazing organization!

 
 
 
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Devin’s Story

My mom became a part of Step by Step when I was only three.  I don’t know all the ways that Step by Step helped my mom, but I guess I don’t even know my life without Step by Step in it.  They are like family and they have shown us how to be family."

A fountain of curses spouts from my father’s mouth. The temperature of the air singes my ears as I sit in the passenger seat. My younger siblings sit shrunken in the back seat, tears pouring from their eyes. My father’s rage grows as he takes his own possessions from the trunk of my mother’s car and places them on his lawn. My mother tries to calm my younger siblings as each new curse rises in volume and harshness. But it was the final curse that cut deepest. “They’re dead to me. You’re all dead to me.”

These words have been branded into my memory. Even to this day they still resonate in my heart and mind. My parents had been separated for a number of years before this awful event, but it was at this moment that I officially lost the male figure in my life. Before, I didn’t have much respect for my dad because of how he mistreated my mom, but after this cruel event I simply hated him. My anger prevented me from speaking to my dad for almost three years. Hearing those bitter words was a knife in my side, but the sight of my broken siblings was the twist of the blade. I will never forget the expressions of sorrow and loss I saw that day.

Although I still have hard feelings for my dad, and continue to have a disconnected relationship with him, I’ve come to realize that without this happening I might not be where I am today. 

This verbal crime increased the communication between my mom and me. I learned more about my parents’ relationship and what she had endured through the years. It took this incident for me to come to realize how much my mom had sheltered my siblings and me from the harsh reality. After learning of the sacrifices my mom had made for me, I felt called to assist her by helping to raise my siblings. So, I took on a father figure role within my family.

I devoted myself to my family much more, especially towards my siblings. It’s a father’s job to be a protector, inquirer, and teacher within his family. This is why I lock down the house each night, and why I ask my siblings about their education and how I can help them. Being the eldest, I tell them of my life experiences that they have not yet gone through, preparing them for life’s challenges. However, the most important role for a father is to be a positive example for his family. I drive myself to be this example for my siblings, and my decisions in life have been made with this in mind. I ran for school office to inspire them to become leaders within their school. I push myself to earn good grades to cause them to desire to not only get good grades, but exceed mine as well. Through striving to be a positive example for my siblings, I have driven them to be even more successful than myself.

The essential thing that I have learned from this experience is the power words possess. Nine words, “They’re dead to me, You are all dead to me” can forge a new trail in a kid’s life. Before those nine words, I was not one to share with people how I envy the relationships my friends have with their fathers, nor did I go out of my way to take on the lead role in anything. But it was those nine words that have shaped how I am now. I have become responsible through caring for my family. I have become motivated by my call to be the positive example for my siblings. And above all, I have become considerate; not only with the words I say, but also with all of the actions I perform. 

As you can tell from my story, my family and I have demonstrated resiliency, and it is this resiliency of single parent households that I really appreciate. When one parent is absent, whether physically or emotionally, the other has to decide if they are going to step up. My mom has been this type of parent for me my whole life.  My mom became a part of Step by Step when I was only three.  I don’t know all the ways that Step by Step helped my mom, but I guess I don’t even know my life without Step by Step in it.  They are like family and they have shown us how to be family. 

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I am thankful for Step By Step, for being a part of my story. The support Step By Step offers to moms opens many doors to learning, to connecting, and ultimately to changing the course of a child’s life.

I am also thankful for the supporters, volunteers, and people who donate to Step By Step. Your support is changing lives and helping moms put their best foot forward for their children. You are giving kids like me a better chance and a better future. And your generosity helps make sure that Step By Step will continue to be a part of many stories to come.

 
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Devin’s Mom - Penny’s Story

The parenting journey is not easy for any parent, but it was particularly difficult for Penny, Devin’s mom.  Penny has not only done an amazing job raising Devin, but Devin’s two siblings as well. 

Penny was raised in the projects of Boston by a single mom. Penny’s childhood was rough.  At the hands of an abusive mom who was always on government assistance, Penny found work as an escape from her home.  The final beating occurred when Penny was in her late teens. Enough was enough, and she bought a one-way ticket to Washington.  Penny, free of her mom, soon entered into another abusive relationship - one that involved lots of alcohol and drugs. She had three children in three years. Though Penny herself was not involved with substance abuse, the effect on her and her children continued to create an unhealthy and unsafe environment for them.

When Devin was two, and Penny was pregnant with her third child, her neighbor called Robyn with Step by Step, because she was very concerned with what was going on in Penny’s home.  Step by Step was just getting started at the time and Robyn took Penny a meal, a meal that opened the door that Penny needed.  Not only did Robyn bring a meal, but she brought her son Austin along on the visit. He was 4 months old.  Penny immediately felt a bond, someone cared, and Penny caught a glimpse of healthy interaction between a parent and child, and Penny soaked it up like a sponge.  She still has the business card that Robyn gave to her 16 years ago.

Penny felt that Robyn could relate to her, and she felt accepted by Robyn. But, most importantly, she said “I wanted better than what I saw and had always seen around me and I thought Robyn could show me a better way.”  Penny often says that the kids she grew up with are all either dead or in jail, but Penny had the grit needed to do better for her children. She just needed some good examples, some healthy support and help to make better choices.

Penny took advantage of everything Step by Step had to offer. The bus pass Robyn provided for Penny was her gateway to school and work.  Penny attended Step by Step’s very first Christmas Party in 2000 and has volunteered at almost every one since - kids in tow.  Penny went on to later purchase her own home and started her own housecleaning business.

Penny recently said that the “company she keeps is intentional.”  She learned to surround herself with healthy people who could show her/teach her what she didn’t learn or observe while growing up.  She wanted better for herself and her children, and she got better. And, she is raising amazing kids!

This is what we at Step by Step are striving for: a healthy baby, bonding and nurturing early in life, and positive parenting in a safe home that allows children to grow and succeed.  While everyone has times when they need help, our goal is that our moms would get to a place where they can give back and become producers and not always consumers. 

We know that Devin will be successful as he enters college, gets his degree, and ventures into his adult life.  He will be a contributor to society, and we are proud of that.  But what we are most thankful for is that Devin, at 18, can honestly say that he is most thankful for his mom and his family. Devin, although he has not been free from hurt, knows what it is like to be loved and cared for by his mother, who has been there fighting for him, every step of the way.

 
 
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Rachel’s Story

At age 17, I found out I was pregnant. There are no right words to describe the feeling a young girl feels when she sees the test turn positive. I believe you feel every emotion there possibly is. That day changed my life."

When I was 15, my grandmother, who was my best friend, came to live with me and my family. She was terminally ill and when she finally passed away, I took it very hard. I was headed in the wrong direction and fast. Once you start that spiral downwards, it’s extremely hard to pull yourself out. I acted out, and in doing so I found myself turning to one thing after another, to feel something other than the deep sadness I felt.

At age 17, I found out I was pregnant. There are no right words to describe the feeling a young girl feels when she sees the test turn positive. I believe you feel every emotion there possibly is. That day changed my life.

I went to a crisis pregnancy center, where I accepted a referral to Step By Step.

My son changed my world. He tossed it upside down in the most wonderfully beautiful way possible. I knew I had to get my life together, face all my fears head on, and become a better person not just for me but him as well. Robyn, my Step By Step case manager, stayed by my side throughout my pregnancy and even after my son’s birth. She helped me with many things and pointed me in the right direction. Step by Step helped me in many ways. With them, I was able to stay strong, not lose my way, and be the best mother I could be.   

I gave birth to my son Kaleb on my 18th birthday. I was doing well for a single mom. I was working two jobs. I had a place and was able to provide for what we needed. None of that would have been possible if I didn’t have Step By Step and Robyn to support me.

I then went my own way for a few years. During that time, I had another son and later got married. It wasn’t long before I started to see small but noticeable changes in my husband. At first, I blew them off thinking nothing of them; all I could see is how in love I thought I was. When I found out I was pregnant, he was excited, but I was nervous. He had become very controlling very quickly. He started wanting me to do things for him I didn’t like, and when I refused he became aggressive. He eventually laid his hands on me for the first time.

After awhile, I stopped fighting back. I was getting beaten teeth through my lip, black eyes, hand prints around my neck, and suffered months of verbal and emotional abuse.

I knew I had to leave, but how to do it and get out safely was another story.

Finally, I had an opportunity to get out. Shortly afterwards, I got in touch with Robyn from Step By Step. She helped me through so much emotionally, it was a true blessing. I had a very hard high risk pregnancy. She and Step By Step helped me get back on my feet again. With their support, I was able to do what was needed to move on with my life in a positive way.

At the time, Step by Step was working on their housing project, and I was lucky enough to become one of their first housing clients. I was able to get an annulment shortly before my son Josiah was born. Step By Step also helped me get enrolled in college, and I felt like I was getting my life back on the right track. It was so refreshing to know someone truly believed in you and saw your true potential.

A short time after Josiah’s birth, his dad was working on getting clean and sober. I never went back to him in a relationship aspect, but I wanted to be his friend and give Josiah the opportunity to have a relationship with his dad. It lasted a very short time. One night he called, yelling and acting inappropriately. I told him we could talk later when he was sober. In the middle of the night, he kicked down my front door and the next thing I knew his backhand was coming at my face. With one blow, he broke my nose and knocked me out, all while my children slept in the next room. When I came to, he was standing over me, smirking. He looked like a lion that was playing and completely satisfied with what they had done with their prey – a look I will never forget.

If I didn’t have my family and Step by Step, I don’t know what would have happened next. They helped me and my children get through this ordeal. With the strength behind me of those very influential women, I was able to do something that seemed impossible. I filed charges against him and was able to hold him fully accountable for his actions. I testified in court, and I showed up for every court date leading up to his prosecution.

Without Step By Step and the love and support I was shown from my family, I don’t know where I’d be, or my children. I know not everyone has the strong family background like I do to help them get through tough times, but they have the support of Step By Step and it is such a blessing to have a group of people like that.

The women that help the clients of Step by Step have been a blessing to me and my kids. My three sons are now 11, 9, and 5. I am 29 years old, and we are doing great. We are never looking back and only moving forward with our lives.

 
 
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Shanee’s Story

I grew up in a single parent home. I never knew who my father was. We were often homeless. I was surrounded by drug and alcohol addiction. My life was defined by turmoil and abuse. 

I was twenty-one years old, when I found out that not only was I four weeks pregnant but that I was having twins.  At the time, I had nothing. I was homeless and struggling with addictions. I was with the babies’ father, but I was not in a safe place and suffering from sexual abuse and a domestic violence situation."

I grew up in a single parent home. I never knew who my father was. We were often homeless. I was surrounded by drug and alcohol addiction. During my childhood, I was molested by my babysitter for over a year. I later became involved with prostitution. I was a victim of rape multiple times, including an assault by a boyfriend. My life was defined by turmoil and abuse. 

I was twenty-one years old, when I became pregnant. I went to Life Choices Pregnancy Clinic, where I found out that not only was I four weeks pregnant but that I was having twins.  At the time, I had nothing. I was homeless and struggling with addictions. I was with the babies’ father, but I was not in a safe place and suffering from sexual abuse and a domestic violence situation. 

After my appointment, they gave me a packet of resources, and in there was Step By Step’s number. What a life changing day that was. Little did I know, it was the first day of a long journey to a new me and a new life.

Step By Step has always gone above and beyond to help me. They have helped me find housing. They gave me food baskets, diapers, formula, and baby clothes, when I had none. I had case managers who met with me regularly. They helped me with transportation to get to and from job interviews and medical appointments. They gave me counseling. They provided me with parenting and life skills classes, which have been essential to me, where I was able to learn new skills to apply to my and my family’s lifestyle.

Over the next few years, I went through four pregnancies. After the twin boys, I became pregnant with my third son, then another set of twins, girls this time, and finally my youngest daughter. 

Step By Step was there through everything. They gave me support and hope, when I had none. During my first pregnancy, Katherine, more than a few times, came out in the middle of her day or night to pick me up off the streets. Dori helped me learn that twin boys are not impossible. Sarah walked alongside me during the worst part of my life, when I lost one of my twin daughters to SIDS. They helped me get into domestic violence shelters, when I finally made the decision to get out of an abusive situation. And, last but not least, Robyn has been a friend and a support for over 12 years now. This woman is priceless. She is an asset to me in everything I do. She even drove me to the hospital, when I went into labor with my youngest daughter. It is actually my favorite memory of her. It was the first pregnancy I had where from start to finish I was clean and sober. I wasn’t worried about the doctor finding out when and what drug I had used. I wasn’t worried about where me and my baby would come home to. I had a safe, stable, drug and alcohol free home for the first time in my whole life.

My time with Step By Step has been, and continues to be, a vital source of stability for me. It has always been ablessing. The biggest impact that Step By Step, in all its entirety, has had is that they have never given up on me. No matter what I have said, done, or the lack thereof, whether I made good or bad choices they have never stopped believing in me and my capabilities. I’ve put them through hell probably and back again. But, they never gave up on me. They have always been there to encourage me to be my best and to remind me of hope in times where I could not see the end of turmoil.

It has been a long road for me, but I have come so far from where I started. I have always said that I look forward to the day when I can give everything they have given me back to somebody else. I have been a volunteer with Step By Step now for almost eleven years, everything from helping with the annual summer BBQ and Christmas parties, to working in the office to gain employment skills, heading up my own team for the 5k fundraiser, and helping with diaper drives. I am also now a member of their Housing Board and help support their program to provide transitional housing and prevent homelessness for at-risk moms.

A few weeks ago, I landed my first career job as a certified peer counselor working with mentally and physically vulnerable adults.  This is the first time in my life of thirty-four years, where I am financially able to not receive state benefits.  I am super excited to continue to work and provide for my family. 

My dream for my future is to continue to grow my social services career. I look forward to continuing my education at Pierce College, where I hope to obtain my AA degree in social services. 

I am determined to strive to do my best at all times, no matter how good or bad the situation is. 

For my children, my hope and dream for them is to provide a safe home, where they can be who they are. I want to show them unconditional love and support, so they will have a better start to life and into adulthood than I had, that they will not repeat the generational cycle of brokenness that I experienced. Today, my kids are happy and that makes me happy. My kids are healthy, and that’s all I can ask for.

Step By Step is amazing. Life saving. A blessing. They’ve saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today and be the woman and the mother I am, if it wasn’t for them. I think of a lot of the staff of Step By Step as my family. I’m very thankful.

Lastly, I just want to say, to other moms out there who are facing tough times, never lose hope.  No matter how bleak or small you feel, remember it is only a season. Never stop trying to do your best. You can not change your past, but you can change your future and your children’s futures. One step at a time, you can do it!

 
 
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Jowell’s Story

“I don’t have a lot of resources. But, I do have a voice to speak up about what Step by Step has done for me. I am just one of the many lives they will impact. Every mother should be encouraged to better her life and to have the helping hand of someone who can show you how to do it. ”

I’m Jowell, an at home mom to my 3 boys, Malaki, Jaydin and Ethan, and a wife to my husband of almost three years now, Bryan. It’s amazing the pride I have in being a mother. My boys have been my new beginning. They are my reason to push through obstacles I used to let break me, my reason to stay responsible, focused, and always moving forward.

In my past, I have mostly lived a life for me, without fear for consequences, and that has put some difficult situations in my life. I came from a strong family on all sides. My parents were divorced, but both encouraged values and character. My young teenage rebellion sent me to a girl’s home similar to a juvenile hall alternative at the age of 17. I spent 9 months with Miss Trudy, who was the leader of the home, and she made it clear that it was up to me if my time there would be my prison or my palace.

At 18, I was back at home at my mom’s, where I struggled to live under the rules, and I felt I still didn’t live up to my parents’ expectations. I moved out and ended up in California, where I lived a fast life. I was a heavy drinker and became addicted to meth. My life was a day by day effort to get high. I had an opportunity to stay with a friend and her parents, back in California, the Martens. I was very encouraged by their love for such a worthless me. In four months, I fell in love with the Martens so much that I call them my Mushya and my Pashya.

My Mushya told me she wished she could have taken a picture of me when I arrived, and then again just before I was leaving, because the difference was like night and day. I was so strung out when I arrived, she said I looked like a “dead man walking.” After being clean, I had color and looked so alive.

I stayed sober for over a year. But, after coming back to Washington, I easily gave up my resistance to drugs and became involved in an abusive relationship. I lost my job and suffered from growing depression.

My guilt ate away at me for throwing away my sobriety. I knew I needed to change things in my life, and I had to separate from bad influences.

Timing is everything in my story. I met my now husband Bryan and his son, Malaki, in 2006. I quickly fell in love with both of them. It’s very special to me that Bryan’s son, Malaki, was born in 2003. Even though my own life was a mess in 2003, God was holding that gift for me.

When Bryan and I were first dating, a small traffic violation turned into a felony on my record, because I had pills in my purse that were not prescribed to me. I was convicted while I was pregnant. A felony takes away the right to vote. It affects jobs and places of residence. It holds me back from being able to be more involved, even at my kids’ school. The judge explained to me what I could get, and what he was going to sentence me to. He hoped I would make a different life for my baby on the way, and that was what I intended to do.

At the same time the judge was suggesting I make changes, I had already begun working with Sarah, my case manager with Step by Step. Sarah guided me through my pregnancy. She helped me with getting medical insurance, nutrition, and she educated me about how the choices I made during pregnancy would affect my baby. She supported me through all of my court proceedings. She was my friend. I took Love and Logic classes taught at Step By Step, and they helped me see that my anger and frustration only lead to more bad behavior, and also how to give reasonable choices to our kids. Bryan saw a change in my standards and started working on bettering his life also. He took an accelerated course, and got his GED.

Today, we have three children, and we use every resource we can to provide a healthy life for our family. We are in the process of getting full custody of our oldest son Malaki, and the courts are in our favor. My middle son, Jaydin, should be entering kindergarten this fall and our youngest son, Ethan, is a work in progress with potty training.

I will soon be able to get my felony vacated off of my record. To do that, I need to maintain a perfect record for five years, which I am just over a year away from now. My excitement grows, as I know I can do this. I am working on strengthening my skills and continuing to focus on my family. I plan to further my education soon and open a business of my own someday.

Bryan and I are growing to the point where we can fully provide on our own for our family, while being able to give back to those who are ready to make the change themselves for a better life. Malaki and I also had a mommy date while we participated in Step By Step’s 5k Walk/Run Fundraiser last fall. I hope I can be an example to others to keep fighting for what is right and that we can give our world a better tomorrow.

Step by Step has had so much to do with setting us up for success. I have received items to help me care for my kids, resources to get more help, and real life lessons. I’ve never been left alone, and I know Sarah and Robyn will always be there for me. I believe they love every client that comes their way.

I can’t vote, and I don’t have a lot of resources. But, I do have a voice to speak up about what Step by Step has done for me. I am just one of the many lives they will impact. Every mother should be encouraged to better her life and to have the helping hand of someone who can show you how to do it. Sarah has continued to be a part of my life for about five years now, and she has become a true and dear friend of mine. She has always been an outstanding example of a mother who can overcome obstacles, a mother who loves and prides in her son, a hard worker, and an endless giver. I very much look up to the examples I have in Step by Step. My family is forever grateful and blessed for all that Step by Step has done for us. Thank you!

 
 
Danielle Story

Danielle’s Story

Three weeks before traveling across the country for Nursing School, I found out I was pregnant. It was a shock for me and all those who surrounded me. No longer was I viewed as the successful one who couldn’t make mistakes...

When I went to my family and friends, they wanted me to have an abortion. Out of fear, I considered this as an option. They told me - 'You are not ready to be a mom.'"

I was a client of Step by Step in 2004. My mother passed away from cancer when I was six years old, and my father took on the responsibility of raising two daughters on his own. He raised us to be successful, with drive and a willingness to work hard to achieve our goals. It wasn’t an easy task for him, but he gave us 100% all of the time.

I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High with a 3.8 GPA and was viewed as the one who made good choices and had a good life ahead of her. I went on to complete two years of pre- requisites in Nursing at Eastern Washington University. I then applied and was accepted to the University of Memphis Nursing School.

Three weeks before traveling across 
the country for school, I found out I 
was pregnant. It was a shock for 
me and all those who surrounded me. No longer was I viewed as the successful one, who couldn’t make mistakes. I wasn’t married, and the father of my child was also leaving the state to attend college in Indiana.

When I went to my family and friends, they wanted me to have an abortion. Out of fear, I considered this as an option. They told me - “You are not ready to be a mom. You need to have an abortion, go on to nursing school, and continue your life. God will forgive you.” The reaction was the same from everyone, except my sister. She reminded me that my life wouldn’t be over after having a baby, and that babies are a gift from God. My sister assured me that I would have her support, and she helped me get connected with Step By Step.

Against great adversity, I promised God that if he gave me the strength to get through this, I would use my life as a testimony to encourage others. So my journey began. I dropped out of nursing school and got a full time job. I was scared and disappointed with myself, but I knew I was making the right choice.

When I met Sarah, my Step By Step case manager, I felt so blessed to be surrounded by someone who believed that having a baby was a challenge, but that it wasn’t insurmountable. She provided me with words of encouragement, strength and reassurance. She was a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. She walked me through each and every step I needed. She saw more in me than most of my family and friends. She also encouraged me to re- apply to nursing school. She gave me peace that it would all work out. So, I did.

Pregnant and working full time, I applied to every nursing school in Washington State. I was accepted to the Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing. I was so ecstatic, but I asked myself, “How am I going to afford such an expensive school?” By then, my child was 3 months old and I had already seen Sarah for my final visit. But, before she left, she reminded me that her door was always open.

One year into nursing school, I received a call from Sarah. She told me about a scholarship that Step by Step was offering and encouraged me to apply. I wasn’t sure I would get it, but I wrote my essay, submitted it, and left the rest up to God. I am honored to tell you, I was awarded the Clem O’Neil scholarship. Being awarded this scholarship meant more to me than just having part of my school paid for. For me, it meant that someone still believed in me and wanted to see me succeed. It meant that although I was no longer an active client of Step by Step, I wasn’t forgotten, and my life and goals were still important in the eyes of Step by Step. They could see the hard work I put in and wanted to stand beside me to help me complete what I had started.

With the help of Step by Step, and my family and friends, I graduated from the Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing in December of 2008. Since then, I have been able to provide for my son in a way I could

have never imagined. We own our home. We are able to spend quality time together, and I can afford to do most of the activities we like to participate in. I couldn’t be blessed with more.

Ever since my time as a client with Sarah, I had the desire to work for Step by Step. I knew I needed to get some basic nursing experience under my belt, so I got a job at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma right out of school. I called Sarah often, requesting that she ask Krista if there was a job for me. In 2012, I finally got the call for an interview. In February, I was hired on.

I couldn’t be more excited. Now, it is time for me to fulfill my promise. It is time for me to invest in the future of others. It is time for me use my life as a testimony and to provide other women with words of encouragement, strength, and reassurance. It is time for me to be the listening ear and the shoulder to cry on. It is time. It is their time.

 
 
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April’s Story

I still don’t know if Sarah [my casemanager] understands to the full extent how crucial she was in helping me through my pregnancy. My condition was so delicate that having to get up and handle the things that she handled for me could have compromised my pregnancy and my life. Step By Step and Sarah were truly a Godsend for me, and I am tremendously thankful for them."

It was a huge surprise and blessing when Daniel and I found out that we were pregnant. I had been told by my doctor that it would be very difficult for me to become pregnant because of fertility issues, so we were overjoyed when we found out we were expecting a son.

But on April 9th, 2010 our world was devastated when we lost our baby. I was 24 weeks along when I had to have an emergency caesarian section due to complications including a severe infection. I was so ill, weak and heartbroken. I felt like I was in a horrible nightmare just praying to wake up.

After two months, my body had finally healed from the infection. I began to wonder if I would ever have another child. What would I face if I became pregnant again, and could anyone help keep me from losing another child?

The doctors explained that it was still possible for me to have children, in spite of the complications. But, they cautioned me that I would be in the high risk category. A future pregnancy would require a planned C-section, a surgery to prevent me from going into preterm labor again, and increased medical care. They also said there was a risk of my uterus rupturing if I got pregnant again too soon, which would be fatal. I was advised to wait at least two years before trying to conceive, or I would be risking both the babies life and my own.

I felt hopeless. Slowly, through the love and comfort of my family, Daniel, and my own faith and strength I began to recover both physically and emotionally. I started seeing a counselor. I exercised regularly. And, I began to recover.

Sooner than anticipated, we found out that we were expecting another baby and had to make some very difficult choices. Early in my pregnancy, I was referred to Step by Step for maternity support services. Sarah, my Step By Step case manager was an angel. She counseled me throughout my pregnancy. It wasn’t long before I was put on bed rest and Sarah stepped in to take care of all my paperwork. She brought me gifts and food, and told me I could call her anytime. She came to my house to see me and had a nurse come to check on me.

I still don’t know if Sarah understands to the full extent how crucial she was in helping me through my pregnancy. My condition was so delicate that having to get up and handle the things that she handled for me could have compromised my pregnancy and my life. Step by Step and Sarah were truly a Godsend for me, and I am tremendously thankful for them.

My daughter Ava Joy was born 7 pounds 5 ounces on April 19th, 2011, almost exactly one year after her brother came into and left our lives all too quickly. Although she could never replace my son or take away the pain that I feel from losing him, she makes every day happier and brighter.

My daughter is now one year old, and she is the most amazing little person I have ever known. I am getting ready to graduate soon with my BA in Applied Psychology. I hope to someday work with mothers who have suffered similar losses or who are going through similar circumstances that I did. My future is bright and I am thankful for my daughter, my family, and for the people who helped me along the way. Thank You!

 
 
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Indira’s Story

“Indira came to the United States after winning a diversity visa lottery, which gave her a rare opportunity to immigrate to America. Indira’s husband was still waiting to obtain his visa to join her in the United States. You can only imagine the range of emotions she felt when she later discovered that she was not only pregnant but was expecting twins.”

Indira, a Step by Step client mom, is originally from Biratnagar, Nepal. She came to the United States after winning a diversity visa lottery, which gave her a rare opportunity to immigrate to America.

She considered the United States a “dreamland,” where she hoped to have access to a better education, career, and life. Since her arrival, she has struggled with underemployment. Though she earned a Master’s degree in English during her time in Nepal, she has struggled to find good work, only able to secure low paying jobs.

Earlier this year, Indira had the opportunity to visit her husband in Nepal, who is still waiting to obtain his visa to join her in the United States. You can only imagine the range of emotions she felt when she later discovered that she was not only pregnant but was expecting twins!

Indira had already been struggling to maintain a safe and stable home for herself. She now faced a high risk pregnancy and the challenge of planning and preparing to provide for a family, with her husband thousands of miles away. Her resources were extremely limited. While she was pregnant, she was sharing a small one bedroom apartment with four other adults and a baby, and was sleeping on the floor.

When Indira was referred to Step By Step’s program, she was so excited to receive much needed guidance and support.

Indira’s case manager began meeting with her in her home, offering her encouragement, advice, and education about what to expect during her pregnancy and how to prepare and plan for motherhood.

Step By Step provided her with baby supplies and referrals to other resources in the community for additional help. With the help of Step by Step, she was also able to move into her own apartment and receive donated furniture through the Northwest Furniture Bank. She was also matched up with two Step By Step volunteers from the Mom2Mom program, who could offer her additional relational support and encouragement. And, her case manager wrote a letter to the Nepal consulate on her behalf, requesting a visitor visa for her aunt to come help once the twins were born.

In early August, Indira gave birth to a very healthy little girl (6lbs 4 oz) and boy (7 lbs 10 oz). However, there were complications during her labor and, following an emergency caesarian section, things quickly took a turn for the worse. The babies were doing fine, but Indira’s condition was deteriorating.

She was losing blood rapidly, in spite of numerous blood transfusions. The doctors were fearing the worst, and Indira was fighting for her life.

A Step By Step volunteer from the Mom2Mom program had given Indira a ride to the hospital and chosen to stay with her during the delivery. She not only waited with her all night long at the hospital, but she also ended up helping communicate with the doctors, as well as with Indira’s very worried husband in Nepal.

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After a long and scary ordeal, the doctors announced that everything was okay and that both babies and Indira were doing well. Finally, Indira’s Mom2Mom mentor was able to drive mom and babies home safely.

Indira certainly has her hands full, but she is so thankful for all of the help Step By Step has given her. Her aunt’s visitor visa was approved, and she arrived not long after the twins were born. Her help has been wonderful for Indira and has also made it possible for her to return to work.

Indira is thankful for all of the support she received through Step by Step. Her twins, now four months old, are healthy and thriving. Indira is a devoted and loving mother. Like so many of our Step by Step client moms, she shows tremendous courage and perseverance facing the many challenges of being a new mom with limited resources.

Indira recently received her United States citizenship, witnessed by her two Mom2Mom volunteers. She hopes her husband will be able to join her and the babies in the Spring. It would be a happy beginning to an already long journey, and a dream come true!

 
 
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Paulina’s Story

““I wanted so badly to be a good mom, so that my children 
would not have the childhood I had.”

I guess I had a hard life. When you are young, you don’t realize how hard it is, it is just what you do. This is the first time I have ever shared my story. And I am a little… a lot embarrassed. But, I am reminded that I was just a kid. I was not protected from the world’s ways. I hope my testimony can help other teens and young women.

My dad lived across town.  When I would pass by him on the street, he would see me and say, “Oh, hey!” I knew he recognized me, even when he was using his drugs. But, that’s about all I can tell you about my dad.

My mom raised me, sort of. I have very few memories before I was 10. I know my mom was drunk and partied a lot.  I know she yelled a lot. I know she had lots of boyfriends and they molested me, a lot.

School was not the most important part of my life.  I had three main jobs in my home. I helped to raise my younger brothers and sister the best I knew how. When I was 7 years old, my brothers were 3 and 5. My sister was 4. I also had an older brother who lived with my dad, until he started using heroin.

I kept the house clean and the laundry done. My oldest brother would drop by our house and eat. He was mean and intimidated me. He would leave his dirty dishes in the sink, without me knowing. My mom would come home from working in the fields, while I was asleep. She would wake me up swearing, pulling me out of bed by my hair and yell, “Why is this house dirty?!” I would be dragged into the kitchen, where I would see my brother’s dishes in the sink. It was a job I could never get any control over.

Lastly, I was in charge of the cash. My mom would give me cash, when she came home from work, and I would hide it in a cupboard. I was responsible to pay our landlord the rent. 

Today, people tell me I am good at managing my house. I had a head start.

At 11 years old, my mom sent me on a “vacation” with one of her boyfriends. He used to beat her badly, so you can imagine how we felt about going with him. My sister, brother and I went with him to Mexico. To this day, I am unsure of the purpose of that trip. My mom was drinking too much to care.

We would call her to complain, mainly about the sexual and physical abuse. She would tell us “quit your bitching.” The boyfriend’s relative were mean, and they would tell us no one wanted us.

Our “vacation” then took us to Las Vegas. We were left on our own in a hotel. I remember that the boyfriend kept throwing cash at us. We had so much cash, we did not know what to do with it. We ate anything we wanted. We roamed around and ate a lot of candy! We later returned with him to our mother’s home in California. They fought, and we never saw him again. It was a good thing.

At 12 years old, I found out that I was pregnant by one of my mother’s boyfriends.

The hospital never called CPS. They released me to the care of my mother. I guess they did not know how hung over and angry my mom was that day.

After a couple years, my mom called CPS, because she was tired of having a little one around the house.  CPS took my daughter away. I was sad. I am still sad today. But, I did not want my daughter to have my life. I realized that this is what my family did. My grandmother pimped out my mom and her sisters. My mom did the same. My grief was eased knowing that my daughter would not experience a fourth generation of harm. 

My lifestyle did not change, except now CPS was involved. I ended up bouncing in and out of foster homes, juvenile hall, and eventually spent two years at a Boot Camp. I was so angry at my mom that I told her never to visit me at Boot Camp. She still came twice.

She said she went to church now, that she wasn’t drinking.  She prayed for me. She apologized to me. Each time she came, she would tell me she had changed. Still, I was too angry to listen to her.

At Boot Camp, my room was so dark. There was only a crack of light from the door jam. I would see shadows I could not explain. I started going out into the hall, with my blanket, where a nice woman would comfort me and ask if we could pray. I was, like, “Yeah, why not?”

When I got out of Boot Camp at 18, I started partying again. My mom continued to talk to me about her changed life. She invited me to come live with her in Washington, to get away from the negative influences. I was so tired from partying and doing drugs, that I decided to go. My brother had decided to go with me. He had hit bottom too. He had attempted suicide. We drove to Washington together.

Once in Washington, my mom continued to force me to attend church with her. Eventually, I met my husband, Gilbert, at church. He attempted to accept me for who I was. He had a vision for our future and wanted to have a traditional family life. I had no idea what that looked like.  But, he has never given up on me or on our vision, and we are figuring it out together.

I got involved with Step By Step with my last two sons. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t really know anything different than how I was raised.  There were very few people in my life who were good to me.  There were very few people who extended sincere love.  There were very few people who believed in me.  I wanted so badly to be a good mom, so that my children would not have the childhood I had.  

Gail, my Step By Step case manager, was all of those things for me. Gail helped me with my fears about leaving my home.  She helped me figure out who was a safe person to leave my children with, and we created a plan. I learned about depression and ways to cope and get help.

Gail also helped me with birth control options, but some plans did not go well, including a doctor who didn’t have time to tie my tubes following a delivery and then birth control that failed. When I found out I was pregnant again, she helped me to process the shock. She was a person I could trust.

At that time, I was taking care of extra children to bring in some extra money, and now I was going to have an extra child!  Step By Step helped me to get extra beds, clothes, diapers and a car seat. Step By Step also had nurses that worked with me as well, like Ellie and Maria, who helped teach me to make healthy choices for my children.

Even though my last baby wasn’t planned, he is a blessing, and we love him dearly. And, I can assure you that now my family is complete!

My boys are being raised to be men and to be gentle.  My only daughter is a bit of a princess, surrounded by brothers, but she is such a joy!

My oldest son is thoughtful and my right hand man, at times. When I forgot to take a diaper bag to day care and was already at work, he noticed and rode his bike with the bag to the day care. He rides his bike to get groceries, too. One morning, his bike was stolen off of our porch. It really upset the inner workings of how we did life.

Gail arranged to get us a bike through Eastside Baby Corner, a shiny, new, 22 speed bike and helmet. This took the pressure off of us, again. It was a wonderful surprise for my son, and he rides it proudly.

Gail continues to provide support to my family and me, even though we have graduated from the program.  She helps answer questions about how the world works, when it’s hard to understand.  Our family also loves to attend the Christmas parties that Step By Step puts on each year. They are such a blessing to our family. I look forward to giving back and volunteering at an organization that has given so much to me. 

I am grateful to have Gail and Step By Step in my life. My kids are better for it too. I am also thankful to each one of you who give and donate to Step By Step. My family is stronger, because of you.

 
 
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Tanya’s Story

“I am sharing my story today, for any woman who feels like she has no one to relate to or feels like she is alone. I hope every mother and woman knows you can do this, and you are not alone! 

My story began twenty-seven years ago. My parents were never married and never would be, and my father was an alcoholic. I don’t have many memories from my childhood. The ones I do have are not pleasant.”

Everyone has a story. Your story isn’t only about where, when, or how it started rather where you choose to take it and how it ends. I am sharing my story today, for any woman who feels like she has no one to relate to or feels like she is alone. I hope every mother and woman knows you can do this, and you are not alone! 

My story began twenty-seven years ago. My parents were never married and never would be, and my father was an alcoholic. Two years after I was born, my mother left him. She later met my stepfather, and they got married.

I don’t have many memories from my childhood. The ones I do have are not pleasant. I have vivid memories of the inappropriate places my biological dad placed his hands, during the long drive from where my parents would meet to his house. There were so many “sketchy” things that happened to me while in his care. He was an alcoholic, and I was an easy target.

My lessons in life and love came from the woman I call my mother. Her name was Caroline, and she was my great-grandmother by the laws of nature, but my “mother” by choice. Although she was tougher than nails and ruled with an iron fist, she took the time to teach me how to cook, clean, sew, garden, and be the mother I am today. She was nowhere near perfect, and that was the beauty of it. She taught me that it was okay to make mistakes and that it was how you carried yourself through them that made the difference.

When I was eight years old, I asked to send an email to my biological dad. I emailed that I never wanted to see him again, and that I would not be returning to his home every other weekend. 

That email was a huge relief. A giant weight lifted off of my shoulders, even as an eight-year-old. I know I was being naïve, but I hoped that with him out of my life things would get better. Sadly, they did not.

When I was in third grade, I reported an incident to a school counselor, who made a report with CPS.

This did not go well, and I was not believed. I felt like no one cared what a child had to say. I went back and told my school counselor what happened, and she was furious. After that, she checked in on me often, but I stopped talking. I feared being labeled and had lost most of my trust in adults.

When I was thirteen, I woke up one day and decided I was going to commit suicide. So many thoughts ran through my head. Would anyone even care? I sat on my bed, sobbing. I wrapped a tie around my neck and tied it to the highest point of my ceiling fan. Just as I had finished tying it as tight as I could around my neck, my mom walked in. She came over and got me down and looked at me in a way I had never seen her look at anyone and then walked out. That was that. We never talked about it again. 

Soon after, I was introduced to burning and carving. It got to the point where I wasn’t allowed to have scissors near me, unmonitored, in class in Junior High. I would steal safety pins and needles out of my grandma’s sewing kit, so I could carve while at home or at school in the bathroom. I wore wrist sweat bands to cover the cuts and scars all the time. It became somewhat of an addiction. I would steal my parents’ lighters and light them and hold them against my skin until I would have nasty burns. As sick as it sounds, it actually felt good. In a world where I felt alone and numb, it reminded me that I could feel something.

In ninth grade, I met a guy. He was 19 and was the typical “bad boy”. I fell head over heels in love with him. He treated me like a princess and bought me nice things and loved spending time with me. We lied to my parents and told them that he was 17, so that they would let us be together. However, he later became emotionally, physically and verbally abusive. 

He was the boy I lost my virginity with at 14 and that only made me more attached to him. I never told my mom that I was sexually active. I did go with one of my friends to Planned Parenthood to get on birth control. My mom ended up discovering it in my room. In a moment of panic, I told her it was my friend’s and that she had forgotten it when she stayed the night. I should have just found a better hiding spot or been open and told my mom  I was having sex, but I was so scared I threw it away.

My boyfriend and I broke up in June of 2007. In July, he called with the old “I miss you. My mom misses you. You should come over, so we can talk” speech. 

Well, of course one thing led to another and we were intimate with each other again. I left that day and didn’t contact him again.

September came and I returned to school. It was my 10th grade year, my first year of high school. I had played private league soccer from around age 7 until that first year of high school. One of the coaches heard how good I was and wanted me to play on the school’s team. When my mom took me to the clinic for a sports physical, my doctor came into the room and told me he couldn’t finish my physical that day. I started to get angry, and he quickly stopped me, saying “no, you’re pregnant.” 

My jaw hit the floor. I looked at my mom, with no idea of what to say or do. The only words that came out of her mouth were “Oh, real #$@&%*! nice, Tanya. What will we tell your dad?” When we got home, my mom told my step-dad. With a sarcastic look on his face, all he said to me was, “Well, looks like I won a bet with the next-door neighbor.” 

I remember thinking, is that what my parents think of me? It didn’t matter. What mattered now was the baby growing inside me. 

My mom drove me to my boyfriend’s house, where I taped the copy of my pregnancy results to his front door with a note that said, “if you want to be involved, call me.” He called only to deny that the baby was his, despite the fact that I had only ever been with him.

I was 15 when I found out I was going to be a mother. Soon after finding out, I celebrated my 16th birthday. My mom took me to WIC, and one of the employees suggested, based on my mental health history, that I enroll in the Step By Step program. It was awkward at first. I had my doubts that my counselor with Step By Step really wanted to help. But, by our 2nd or 3rd visit, I could tell she truly cared. She was an amazing advocate for me, during my pregnancy. My Step By Step home visits became my once-a-month outlet that really kept me grounded and in a better mental state. 

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On Christmas eve, I found out I was having a boy! In my third trimester, I learned that I had preeclampsia, which causes weight gain, painful swelling, vision changes, headaches and many other tough symptoms. At 37 weeks, my OBGYN made the decision to induce me. 

My baby was initially born purple and unresponsive. I remember the nurses holding him next to my face and telling me to kiss him because they needed to get him to the NICU. Hunter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice and his body once. 

It was the scariest thing at 16 to watch a team of nurses whisk away your baby only seconds after meeting him. After we left the hospital, I returned to my parents’ house, where the long nights and figuring out what it meant to be a mother kicked into full force. 

I had many sleepless nights and many sacrifices were made. I transferred schools to attend an alternative High School, in which I only had to go to school four days a week for three hours a day. It allowed me to continue with my education and also be a mother to my son. I got my first job in the fast food industry, knowing that I had a son to support. I would go to school in the mornings, then go home for a few hours to spend time with my son, before going to work, usually from 5 pm to 10 pm. 

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I later developed postpartum depression. It was so hard. I wanted to succeed and prove to my baby that anything was possible, but I felt like I would never amount to anything. But, I made it through. I ended up graduating high school on time, with my one-year-old son on my hip. I got a new job in the caregiving and health industry, moved into my first apartment, and finally had a place of my own.

When Hunter turned five, I was twenty-one years old. I couldn’t believe I had a kindergartener. Later that year, I met the man who would later become my husband. At first, I was terrified to start a new relationship, but Jeremy was a perfect fit for not only me, but also for Hunter. For the first time, I experienced unconditional love. 

We later had our little girl, Miss Aspen Rose. With this pregnancy, I didn’t suffer from depression. I truly believe it was because I was on my own and had a loving friend and supportive father by my side. For once in my life, things were going well. My life seemed so much brighter.

But, it didn’t last long. My grandma, “my mom”, had fallen ill and was in the hospital. I was sitting in the hospital talking to her and holding Aspen, when she suddenly wasn’t talking right anymore. It happened so fast, in the blink of an eye, the nurses came running. “Adult Code Blue” and her room number echoed in the hallway, and I watched as I lost my mom. 

“Who will stand up for me now? Who do I call at 2 am to vent to?” I sat there holding her lifeless hand crying and begging her not to go, despite the fact that she was already gone. Minutes turned to hours that I sat in that room.

Life is never the same after you lose someone you love. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was barely able to take care of the kids. The housework piled up, Hunter was late to school almost every day, and my heart returned to its previously numb state. I had to learn to live again.

Then, I found out our third child would be joining us in this crazy world. When the doctor told me my due date, the room stood still, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day of 2017, my grandma’s birthday. I couldn’t believe that he was to come on her birthday, and she wouldn’t be here to greet him. 

I called Step By Step to see if I could get into their program again. I did, and my case worker, Becky Hoffman, was amazing. Just like my first case worker, she was resourceful and easy to talk to. 

She helped me learn how to separate what I was capable of from all the hurt from my past. She encouraged me to focus on myself and my growing family, and she educated me on local programs and resources, in an effort to encourage me to give myself goals to work towards.

Baby Rhett came right on time. His pregnancy didn’t have any crazy stories, like my last two. Becky later met us and gave me a bag full of baby gifts and blessings, from Step By Step and their volunteers. 

After Rhett was born, I knew I had to start planning for a change in my future. When Rhett was three months old, I took advantage of the advice and resources that Becky provided and enrolled at Pierce College, with the help of the BFET program. It was a long journey, but I needed to prove to myself and to my kids that no matter what cards you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you to determine your happiness. 

This past June, I graduated from Pierce College, with the President’s Award for my 3.89 GPA. I was also awarded the BTECH Student of the Year award by my program supervisor. When, I walked across the stage, my now 10-year-old son screamed out proudly “that’s my mom!” 

Today, my family is thriving. Hunter, Aspen, and our youngest boy Rhett, are all doing well. A few years ago, Jeremy got hired on to work at Korum Hyundai, in Puyallup. From day one, he has loved this job. The people, what he is doing, the atmosphere, and environment are astounding. He’s been there ever since. I have also learned that the Korum family is a huge supporter of Step By Step!  

We are so thankful for Step By Step and Korum Automotive. These two organizations have been a positive, instrumental force in our lives.

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I want my next step to be to find a job where I can utilize my knowledge, embrace my strengths, and give back in some way, no matter how large or small a contribution. 

Everything I do, I do for my three kids. My life goals are to live happier, travel more, and love harder. I hope my story and my life build up other women and mothers who have faced similar challenges. I want them to know that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to. 

I didn’t have many cheerleaders in my life, and I think everyone deserves to have someone on the sidelines cheering them on. My grandmother, my husband, and my Step By Step case workers have all been cheerleaders in my life.

My biggest goal and dream for the future is to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps. Her gravestone says “she gave so much but expected so little.” I hope I can leave this same legacy for my children and that my life story will be defined by my generosity, hard work, and kindness.

 
 
Roxanne Story

Roxanne’s Story

“I was admitted to Swedish Hospital, after testing positive for Heroine. Three days later, my daughter Charlotte was born. I remember she was being kept in a nursery down the hall from my room. It was in that moment that I realized I had to quit using, or I was going to lose my baby girl.”

On October 2nd, 2015, I was admitted to Swedish Hospital, after testing positive for Heroine. I was 9 months pregnant and due any day. CPS was automatically involved, and I was immediately admitted and registered for a 30-day inpatient stay. 

I started using drugs when I was 21 and had continued to struggle ever since. I tried to quit multiple times but had been unable to break free. My first daughter, Mylie, eventually ended up living with her father, and I missed out on a lot of time with her during the years I struggled with addiction. 

On October 5th, three days after being admitted to the hospital, my daughter Charlotte was born. I remember she was being kept in a nursery down the hall from my room. It was in that moment that I realized I had to quit using, or I was going to lose my baby girl. 

After my 30-day inpatient stay was completed, I was released for a 90-day placement with my sister. CPS told me that if I did well during the 90 days, they would close the case. My mother also moved up to help care for Charlotte. My family was very loving and supportive of me and my baby. I started a treatment program at a methadone clinic 6 days a week and an intensive outpatient counseling program 3 days a week.

During my time at the hospital, I was referred to Step By Step. Becky was assigned to me, as my case manager, and Katie worked with me, as Charlotte’s infant case manager. Robyn, Step By Step’s housing program manager, was also brought in to help me work towards finding stable housing. 

Robyn interviewed me on two separate occasions and agreed that I was a good candidate for Step By Step’s transitional housing program. I was able to move in to my own housing in February of 2016. 

It was a place I could call my own, something I had always wanted but had never had before. 

I was excited, but I was struggling with depression and needed ongoing encouragement and guidance. Meridee, one of the Step By Step housing team members began visiting with me every two weeks or so to check in. She helped me organize and to establish a housekeeping plan and a parenting routine for Charlotte. We made phone calls together to get set up for school, pay bills, schedule doctor’s appointments, and connect with DSHS. She helped me to understand safe and healthy boundaries and helped keep me accountable to my goals. 

I kept my place clean and organized and continued to work hard for my baby and myself. During all this time, I have not relapsed once. I have been clean for over a year, and so much has changed. 

I am so thankful for Step By Step and my family, for providing me the support and ongoing care I need to stay strong for my daughter and our future.

My case managers are proud of me and my commitment to provide for Charlotte. Today, I have full custody of Charlotte, and I have regular visits with Mylie. I am excited for our future. I recently started attending Clover Park Community College, and my desire is to go into Interior Design. I believe I am finally making the changes to make my dream life become a reality. 

Throughout everything, my daughters have been my strength and motivation. I want to give them a chance to be successful and good people in the world. While it has not been an easy journey, I am grateful and I am looking forward to the future.

 
 
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Kareena’s Story

“I was eighteen years old, pregnant, and homeless, when I first met my Step By Step case manager, at a library in downtown Seattle. I was feeling overwhelmed, unsure of my future, and unprepared to become a mom. I was determined to keep my baby, but I needed help.”

I first met with Kareena at a library, in Seattle. At the time, she was eighteen years old, pregnant, and homeless. She was feeling overwhelmed, unsure of her future, and unprepared to become a mom. She was determined to keep her baby, but she needed help.

After over 21 years working as a Behavioral Health Specialist and a case manager with Step By Step, I have grown used to seeing and experiencing the huge barriers to hope and health that many of the women we work with are facing. I also oversee our housing program, so I work with some of the most vulnerable women and children we serve. I have learned that one of the most valuable things that I can do for the women I work with is to help them to see and recognize their strengths and potential.

As I sat in that library and listened to Kareena tell me about her story, it was easy to see her many strengths and huge potential. 

When she was young, Kareena’s family home had burned down. Her single mother of seven was already in foreclosure on the house, and their situation quickly spiraled. She ended up living with and being raised by her grandmother, but the home environment was not a clean and safe place.

In spite of the challenges she faced growing up, Kareena made a lot of positive choices that put her on a path to success. She chose not to surround herself with people that would pressure her to make poor choices or handle stress in negative ways. She worked hard and focused on her education. In High School, she took the initiative to enroll herself in a Running Start program. By the time she turned eighteen, she had graduated with both her High School diploma and an Associate Degree, and she was working on her Bachelor Degree. She was on a fast track to success.

It was not long after that she found out she was pregnant. 

She knew that she could not bring her baby home to the environment she was living in. About a month into her pregnancy, she took everything she owned and moved out. 

She started sleeping at friend’s houses or in her boyfriend’s car, but her living situation was volatile. She found out about Step By Step, when she went to a local WIC office. She saw a bunch of pamphlets with information about local resources, and she said she just started calling all the numbers, and one of them was for Step By Step.

Kareena later told me that one of the most impactful things about our time together was my reassurance that she could do it. At our first visit, she said I asked a million questions and that some of the things I asked her not even her closest friend knew the answers to. But, she recognized that I was there to help and went way out of her comfort zone. At our second visit, we talked about some housing options. At our third, I met with her and the father of her baby.

Just a few weeks after our meeting at the library, I was able to get her into Step By Step’s housing program. A local church that partners with our program owned an apartment, and they had offered it to us for use as a transitional housing option. Kareena was able to move in, and she was excited to finally have a safe and stable place of her own.

This little apartment allowed Kareena to stay focused and keep moving forward. She was working hard and in school full time. She was hopeful for her future and determined to be a good mom and provide well for her baby.

In August, she delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She said she felt an incredible amount of accomplishment, love, and a huge sense of peace. After having her baby, she said she felt like, if she could get through that, she could get through anything.

I am so proud of Kareena’s determination to stay committed to her goals. She continued going to college throughout her pregnancy. Then, just five weeks after she had her baby, she went back to finish her degree. She figured out how to commute over an hour to college both ways, and she even figured out how to keep breastfeeding her baby. 

She continues to amaze me with her determination to go after resources and figure things out. For Kareena, the biggest thing she needed was just someone to help her fill in the gaps and address her barriers to success, so she could keep moving in the right direction.

When Kareena’s baby was just a few months old, the same church that had offered us use of their apartment approached us about a house they owned, wondering if we might be able to use it, as well, for our housing program. The rent the church needed to charge would have been too much for one of our moms to afford, and the home wasn’t laid out well for multiple families. It was also in need of quite a few repairs and renovations.

We began brainstorming the feasibility of fixing it up and establishing a small daycare facility, as part of a fledgling project to provide childcare for some of our working moms. One thing led to another, and Kareena stepped up to propose running the business. She and her family would live in the house and become a family home child care provider.

The next few months completely amazed me. Our Step By Step family of staff, volunteers, donors, and community partners rallied together to transform the house, to support Kareena’s family and goals. A donor fronted the cost for renovations and repairs. We had numerous work parties out at the house for demo days and cleaning. We had volunteers going over for a few hours on their evenings and weekends to clean out outbuildings, pull weeds, mow the lawn, and sweep, scrape, and scrub endless amounts of dust and dirt out of that house. Kareena helped pick out colors and paint rooms; and, in a short amount of time, the house was transformed into a welcoming home.

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Kareena moved into the home on June 1st, and she is close to obtaining her business license. In the future, she will be one of our childcare partners and offer care for a few of the moms in our onsite job training program, which is just 2.5 miles from their location.

At Step By Step, we want to help support women in not only having healthy babies but also working to provide for those babies and reach a place of self-sufficiency and stability. We were excited to be able to help mobilize resources and community support, to help Kareena take this next step in her journey.

Kareena is now married and her baby girl is 10 months old. She is hoping to start her business in September. She credits her hard work, perseverance, and faith in God for giving her the strength to stay positive and reach her goals. In spite of all of her accomplishments, she said she is most proud of the fact that she has achieved the family she always wanted. Her baby girl has two parents in one home, something Kareena never had growing up, and her environment is positive, safe, and healthy. She says having her baby has been a huge blessing in her life.

In the future, Kareena and her husband want to be successful running their own business and to someday own their own home. I don’t know what her future will look like, but I do know two things. I know she can do it. And, I know her Step By Step family will be there to cheer her on and support her, every step of the way.

 
 
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Jasmine’s Story

“Jasmine was 18 years old, when she became pregnant with her first child. Her mom wanted her to choose between a relationship with her or the father of her baby, and Jasmine moved out to live with her baby’s dad and his parents.” 

Jasmine’s Story began with a childhood that was marked by instability. She lived with her mom until she was five years old, then with her dad for a year, then with an aunt for two years. While she did move back with her mom permanently at age eight, Jasmine’s mom struggled with gambling and was not often present and attentive in her life. When Jasmine was fourteen years old, she left to live with her boyfriend and his family.

Jasmine’s boyfriend became physically violent, and she realized that her situation was unhealthy and unsafe. However, by the time she knew she needed out, her mom had moved out of state, her older sister was living in Tennessee, and she had no other family nearby to help. When she was 16, she made arrangements to move to Tennessee with her sister, where she stayed for a few months before moving to Washington with her mom. 

Jasmine was 18 years old, when she became pregnant with her first child. Her mom wanted her to choose between a relationship with her or the father of her baby, and Jasmine moved out to live with her baby’s dad and his parents. A month later, they got their own apartment. For about a year, they stayed in one place but were later evicted when her boyfriend lost his job. The two then moved to Minnesota to live with his grandparents. 

During that time, Jasmine found out that her baby’s father had been in a relationship with another woman and had another baby just a month older than hers. For a while, she continued to live with him and his grandparents, and they were co-parenting, but their relationship didn’t last.

Jasmine was struggling with depression, stress, and anger. She began abusing alcohol and became addicted to drugs. At one point, she ended up in jail for a few days. She also started a long distance relationship with the brother of one of her friends, who lived out of state. After a weekend visit, she returned and later found out she was pregnant. Jasmine made the difficult decision to leave her daughter in Minnesota with the baby’s father and grandparents. She didn’t want to leave her daughter, but she felt it was a better and more stable place for her. 

She returned to Washington, where she hoped to have some family support during her pregnancy. When she was eighteen weeks pregnant, DSHS referred her to Step By Step for support.

Linsey, Jasmine’s assigned Step By Step case manager, said that her first visit lasted almost two hours. She said that Jasmine was well spoken and very open during their first visit and every one since. 

They talked a lot about Jasmine’s situation, her family history, and the many barriers she was facing to having a healthy pregnancy. Linsey praised her for starting prenatal care early. They talked about her mental health needs and how she was doing handling stress. Together, they brainstormed ways for her to increase her support system. They talked about nutrition. Linsey also discovered that she had not seen a dentist in over two years and referred her to one in the area that would accept her medical insurance. 

Jasmine was able to live with a family member for the remainder of her pregnancy, and she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl she named Autumn. However, just a few weeks after her baby was born, she was forced to leave. 

Now homeless, with a newborn baby, Jasmine couldn’t find a shelter that wasn’t full. She ended up in the ER waiting room of a nearby hospital. For a few days, she walked around the hospital during the day and then slept off and on in the Pharmacy area. No one asked why she was there. It was then that Jasmine realized that no one was truly there for her.

Jasmine called her Step By Step case manager, who told her that there had been a recent opening in the housing program and scheduled her for an interview. Step By Step arranged for a place for her to stay the night, and the next day she was accepted into housing and moved into an apartment with another young mom.

Jasmine had never finished High School, so she started a self-study GED program, and she got a job at Wal-Mart. It was a struggle for her to find reliable childcare for her baby, but she said that working was a good thing for her. She set goals to complete her GED, find her own apartment, and buy a car. She was determined to be able to provide financially for herself and her baby, and she wanted to work towards being able to have both of her daughters living with her. 

Halfway through the housing program, Jasmine said she felt her mindset had started to change. She was still struggling with depression, but she was stronger, and she was doing better. When her roommate left for a holiday, she was alone and that was hard for her. But, Jasmine recognized that overall she had grown and matured a lot, and she was learning healthier ways to manage stress. At one point, she told Linsey that she had successfully opened a bank account, and that it was a big accomplishment for her. “I only have $7 in checking and $7 in savings,” she said, to which Linsey congratulated her and said “hey, that’s a start!”

Today, Jasmine is married, works full time, and has stable housing of her own. She has been drug free for over two years. She obtained shared custody of her oldest daughter and has established a healthy relationship with her first daughter’s father.

She recently gave birth to her third baby in June, a healthy baby boy named Julian. Jasmine says her husband and his family are wonderful and that she finally has a healthy, normal family. They threw her the first baby shower she has ever had, and they get together regularly to celebrate the kids’ birthdays, have family dinners, and to just spend time together. 

“Before, I felt alone. Now, I feel complete. My husband and I dream to one day have our own house to make memories in. Our hope is that our kids grow up raised the right way, around family and friends.”

Jasmine says that she really appreciates all of the counseling she received from her Step By Step case manager, Linsey, and that they still keep in touch. She continues to be thankful for the Step By Step program. “They gave me shelter,” she says, and “they pushed me to want better.”