Like any mother, Tanya wanted her children to do well, feel safe, and know they were loved.
“I’ve always wanted to do everything for them,” Tanya said.
She signed daughters Jessie, 10, and Cassie, 7, up for swimming, ballet, and hip-hop, and took them to a reading program at the library each summer. Even after she gave birth to baby Lola while in an abusive relationship with Lola’s father, who was later incarcerated for domestic violence, Tanya still wanted the best for her girls. She hoped Lola’s father would change, so they could be together again when he was released.
Nearly half of all women in the U.S. experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime; more than one in three experience sexual or physical violence. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are 15 times more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted than their peers. They’re also at risk for a host of behavioral and emotional challenges, especially if their trauma goes untreated.
To Tanya, the domestic violence and parenting classes she was ordered to attend by the court sounded like punishment.
“I was confused,” she said. “In that moment, I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong.” Even worse was the devastating prospect that she might lose her daughters. Allies’ In-Home Outreach Counselor Karla listened to Tanya’s frustrations and fears. It was Karla’s job to reinforce what Tanya was learning in her classes, as well as use Allies’ resources to support the family in whatever ways they needed.
Karla helped the struggling mom-of-three get school supplies and bunk beds for Jessie and Cassie with funds through Allies. She showed her how to handle stress by modeling responses to the daily challenges of being a single parent. She also introduced the family to the Allies community. In the fall, Tanya and the girls attended Allies’ Annual Children’s Arts Festival community day. A couple months later, they took in a local performance of The Nutcracker with tickets donated to Allies.
Helping Tanya build her support network was crucial to ensuring the girls’ safety. Social isolation is one way abusers exert control over their victims; it is also a risk factor for child abuse. In her parenting classes and discussions with Karla, Tanya started to realize that if she wanted to keep her children safe and ensure they were successful, she needed to do the same for herself.
“It really changed my way of thinking,” Tanya said. “I had to become more of a parent.”
With Karla’s support, Tanya ended her relationship with Lola’s father. She refocused her energy on her daughters, spending more time playing in the park and going to church with them. And when a developmental screening revealed Lola had a gross motor delay, Tanya took up all the activities Karla recommended to support Lola’s growth, like laying on the floor with her to encourage crawling. Within a few months, Lola had the confidence and skills to physically explore her environment – a crucial milestone that builds the foundation for cognitive, social-emotional, and language development.
Tanya went on to meet several milestones of her own. After 10 months of domestic violence and parenting classes, she graduated and closed her family’s case with the court. She enrolled in school and is taking child development classes, inspired by the progress she and her family have made with Allies’ help. This summer, she plans to teach her kids to extend their learning beyond the classroom by volunteering at the LA Zoo.
Tanya knows the hard work isn’t over – being a parent, after all, is a lifelong and beyond-full-time job – but now, she’s confident she can handle whatever challenges might come her way.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom or single dad, anything’s possible,” Tanya said. “Just love yourself, and love your kids.”