Heidi and Allison had been at the shelter for three weeks. Heidi was homeless, unemployed, and a had a fourteen-year-old daughter who hated her. Allison, the fourteen-year-old, was embarrassed to be at a homeless shelter with her mom. Heidi felt at her whit’s end. She considered going back to her abusive husband Tom because then they would at least have a roof over their head, food on the table, and Allison would be happy to be back home with her dad. That was when Heidi was referred to our Intensive In-Home Program at Bridges of Hope.
When I met with Heidi she told me Allison was hanging around a new group of friends, some old enough to drive. Allison would leave school to go “cruising” with her friends and didn’t get back to the shelter until curfew. When Heidi tried to talk with her about it, Allison would say, “What are you going to do, try to stop me? If you do, I will make a scene, we will get kicked out of here, and then where will we go?”
After learning about Heidi and Allison’s current situation, we made a plan for the family. Housing was at the top of Heidi’s priority list. She knew having a stable home was important for Allison (and her). Luck was on their side, and within one month, they moved into a nice two-bedroom home.
Second on Heidi’s list of goals was improving her parenting skills (parenting a teenager is NOT easy!). Over several weeks, we went over a parenting technique called “Love and Logic.” Heidi started to hold Allison accountable for her actions, and Allison had to live with the consequences of those actions.
Heidi had never stood up to Allison before; she was afraid Allison would hate her and go live with Tom. She was surprised to find out (after a few rough encounters) that Allison started to respect her for setting boundaries. Heidi also attended the parent support group that Bridges of Hope offers once a week. She was able to see that she was not the only one who struggles with parenting a teenager. The other parents understood her concerns and they were able to offer advice and support to each other without judgment.
Next up was mental health services for both Allison and Heidi, despite the fact that Allison refused to go to counseling. Heidi again stood her ground and made the appointment anyway; her mouth almost dropped to the floor when Allison actually went. The first few appointments were rough but eventually Allison started to open up to the therapist and began working through some difficult issues.
About that same time Allison was able to visit her dad at his home without supervision. Heidi began to notice that Allison’s behavior was very taxing for two or three days when she got home from her dad’s house. Heidi was starting to think that it would be easier to let Allison live with her father.
Easy isn’t always best so, again, we came up with a plan. When Allison came home from her dad’s house, Heidi would have a board game ready to play. Then, they would make dinner together, bake something, and watch a movie. This became their “coming home tradition” which eased the stress of the transition and made both of their lives smoother.
Last on the list was employment. Heidi got a job at a fast food restaurant (after filling out what felt like hundreds of applications). It worked out well because her employer was flexible with her schedule and she worked while Allison was in school or at her dad’s house.
As every family does, they still have bumps in the road, but things are looking up. Allison is staying home more and making better choices when it comes to friends. Heidi is proud of the tremendous amount of progress she has made and is no longer afraid to be on her own. And I am proud of her too!
Help make more stories like Heidi and Allison’s possible–Visit www.bridgesofhopemn.org to learn more (and even register for our upcoming Run for Hope 5K: Ready, Set, Glow!), AND check us out on Facebook!