My story begins about 13 years ago. It was a normal spring day, and I had stayed home sick from school. Someone my family had trusted, someone I trusted, raped me in my home that day.

Needless to say, things would never be the same for my family and I again. My mother blamed herself for having to be at work that day, I blamed myself for staying home from school, and it really just tore my family apart during a time when we needed each other the most. I hated that this happened to me. I felt so alone and different now, it’s hard to explain but eventually it just drove me to have little respect for myself. I started skipping school, doing drugs with people much older than me, then I began running away from home for weeks at a time. I didn’t care about anyone or anything.

One year later, my case finally went to trial and I was preparing to testify in court when I received the scariest news of my life, I was pregnant.

At 14 years’ old this broken teenager was going to be a mom. After the trial ended, on the day of his conviction, state workers came to my home and took me away. I didn’t get to say good bye to my mom or my siblings. Someone just thought I’d be better off in the foster care system and just like that I was gone. I thought when the trial ended that things had a chance to return to normal, but now I was living with a new family in a strange house with none of my things, pregnant and alone. I didn’t feel excited to become a mom; I wasn’t this happy glowing beautiful person. I was depressed, I was self-harming, consumed by the idea of dying because it would be so much easier.

A few months later, my social worker decided to place me in a group home for pregnant girls, she said I’d meet friends, learn to be a good mom, and promised I’d love it. I moved into Florence Crittenton when I was about 4 months pregnant. There were a lot of girls there, from all over the state. Some had babies already and some were pregnant like me. After a few weeks I made a friend, she was a month ahead of me in her pregnancy and it turned out we had a lot more in common than just being young moms. The loneliness began to fade as I found comfort in talking to her as well as some of the staff. They had given me a safe place to acknowledge what happened to me, and most importantly, heal.

While staying at Florence Crittenton I attended counseling sessions, parenting classes, and even school again. I was helping girls around the home with their kids, learning to cook, and feeling excited for the first time, that I was going to be a mom. Most importantly I think, Florence Crittenton allowed me to rebuild my relationship with my mom, I hadn’t spoken to her or seen her in months and I missed her and still needed her.

Florence Crittenton knew that healthy families didn’t just mean mom and baby. They encouraged healing and forgiveness so that the pain from my past would not be manifested into my child’s life.

I left Florence Crittenton and went home to my family a few weeks before giving birth to my son. He was born healthy, and was the happiest little boy. Twelve years later, he is still the happiest boy I know, he’s got a loving family, two younger brothers, his step dad and me. He plays the saxophone, baseball and probably too much fortnite.

I’ve worked in banking for the past 3 years and am currently a service manager at Wells Fargo bank in Helena and I plan to keep furthering my career in the financial industry. I married my soul mate, Jason last year and together we’ve been raising our 3 wonderful boys.

I can’t imagine having any of this without Florence Crittenton. I was someone who wanted to die when I found out I was pregnant. They taught me that no matter how bad things have been there is something coming that is so worth living for and my baby is going to love me no matter what happened to me or who I used to be.

They taught me that family is everything and it’s never too late to fix things. They gave me the courage to face more than just mother hood but every obstacle that came after because I knew I always had the support of the staff and girls I met there. Many of them I still keep in touch with today.

Without Florence Crittenton I would have given up, and what a shame that would be because I absolutely love my family and my life.