This is the third in our series we are calling “Reunification Stories.” In it we hear from parents who have successfully complete the tasks necessary to make their homes safe so that they may be reunified with their children in foster care. On June 3rd, the Pasco County Court held a “Reunited” celebration in honor of the 217 families that have been reunited so far this year in Pasco. This is the story of Felicia and how she reunited with her two young daughters.
Hello! My name is Felicia Fitzpatrick. I am twenty- five years old and the Mother of two beautiful daughters. Nevaeh is six years old and Katalaya will be two in August. I am honored to stand here today and tell you my story and am proud to share my happy ending. I would like to start off by saying I am a recovered addict. Like I said, Katalaya my youngest will be two on August 2, which is also my two-year clean mark. She saved my life the day she was born and she doesn’t even know it yet!
It all started when I was eighteen and pregnant with my first child, Nevaeh. I had been abusing prescription pain pills for a year before she was born. I was young and thought I knew it all. Her father and I both used pills and before long I was arrested for things I was doing to feed our addiction. A month before I had Nevaeh, her father was arrested and was sentenced to a year in prison. I was devastated and alone with a new baby. It wasn’t long after she was born that I went right back to doing what I knew which was getting high to numb myself. I went through hell with my family who continuously called DCF on me and then before long I signed temporary custody over to my grandmother while I took time in jail. I would like to say that when I got out, I stayed clean, but that didn’t happen. I continued to spiral out of control and eventually signed my parental rights over to my grandmother. I wasn’t in a position to care for her and I didn’t know what to do. This was the toughest decision I have ever made and I took a turn for the worse after I signed the papers.
Over the next few years there were brief periods of time where I got clean and tried to see Nevaeh. By that time I had burned many bridges and lost the trust of my family. I had claimed to be clean many times before and ended up disappointing the ones I love. My grandmother wouldn’t let me see her simply because she didn’t believe me and didn’t want me in and out of Nevaeh’s life. I felt like I had no reason to change and would begin to use again. As time went on, I continued with my addiction and started using Meth. I met a guy named James, who also used. I ended up moving in with him at the worst place possible. I was at that point they call “rock bottom”. My family no longer had anything to do with me. I lived at a home with a bunch of addicts, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. After about 6 months of being with James, I found out I was pregnant. I went to the doctor and was told that I was about 22 weeks along. I was disgusted with myself, and angry that I wasn’t more careful. I was ashamed that I was having another baby without fixing things with Nevaeh first. I continued to use with James by my side. We both became homeless together and his family wouldn’t help because they knew we weren’t doing right. Thankfully, my grandmother allowed me to move in with her, but without James.
On July 26, 2014 both our lives changed. James and I were both high and had been up for days. We had a fight and he hit me several times and then called the police on himself. He was arrested and I stayed at my grandmother’s house. A week later, I had our daughter early at 33 weeks. I had drugs in my system and DCF showed up not long after. I can still remember the stabbing feeling in my gut and my heart. My mom agreed to take the baby while I completed a case plan. That day I accepted my case plan I had two choices. I could do the same things I had done in the past and lose another child or I could get myself better! I chose to fight! James and I went separate ways and decided to work on ourselves and complete our case plans. There were many hard months of crying, stress and taking my own inventory. There was also laughter and happiness as my family slowly allowed me back into their lives. I learned how to set personal boundaries for all aspects of my life. Most importantly I realized my own worth. I respect myself and made the choice to live a healthy life free from drugs and unhealthy relationships. I have earned the trust of my grandmother and now have a beautiful relationship with Nevaeh. Throughout this process, I have had a lot of support from my family, the staff at YFA and also the guardian ad litem program. With this support, James and I completed all the tasks asked of us. On April 14, 2015, I was reunified with Katalaya! I am proof that miracles do happen!
I would like to give a special Thank you to Mr. De Rosa with the Guardian Ad Litem Program, Judge Webb, All the staff at Youth and Family Alternatives for never giving up hope on people and families like mine, Bridget Mauger our case manager, Heather and Barbara with the reunification team and of course my family!