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Johnna is a Maternity Program client at Crittenton of North Carolina. She is 30 years old and is currently set to deliver her baby near the end of March 2024. We sat down with her for an interview to learn more about her life, goals, and how Crittenton has helped her overcome the obstacles she’s faced.

What was growing up like for you?

It was hard. Even though I had family, my mom died when I was three months old due to breast cancer. So, it was difficult not knowing who I was and not knowing my mom. When it came to my brothers, they kind of blamed me for our mother’s death. The doctor gave her the option of doing chemotherapy treatment or continuing her pregnancy and birthing me. She chose to have me, and it was like a sacrifice – that’s how my brothers look at it.

It was difficult growing up knowing that she did that, and at the same time not having that mother figure growing up.

Then, I went to go stay with an aunt that was abusive. My dad was also generally very violent and abusive – sexually and physically. That led to the Department of Social Services (DSS) gaining custody of me and placing me into foster care. That was around age 9. Ever since then, I’ve always been in the system.

A lot of people view their trauma as negative. I try to look at mine as something positive, especially with me being pregnant now. The motherhood that I didn’t receive is what I’m trying to give to my kids.

What was the situation that brought you to Crittenton?

Prior to coming to Crittenton, I was in a relationship with someone who abused me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I had multiple miscarriages previously due to stress from this situation. I had to leave for the safety of myself and of my unborn child. At Crittenton, I don’t have to wake up or sleep with one eye open. I can stay here rent-free, stress-free, with food provided, and can come and go as I need to. It has definitely relieved a lot of stress and anxiety. I was able to gain my peace back.

What do you hope to achieve in life?

My main goal is to keep my kids from going through what I went through as a child. When I got to Crittenton and started therapy, I learned that for me, the most important thing is to stay healthy. I can work my life away, but if I’m not healthy while doing it, then it’s pointless. With me being pregnant in addition to already having a son, I had to ask myself, “If I’m not here, who is going to be here for them?” Now, I’m not saying my mother made the wrong decision by choosing to birth me instead of doing chemotherapy. But being the parent that I never had is my number one goal.

No matter the situation, I want to be a supportive, independent parent. Having my kids with me, seeing them smile, and being able to comfortably provide for them without having to live paycheck to paycheck is my goal. I don’t want to have to come back to Crittenton for anything. I want my kids to see from my example that they are strong people and no matter what obstacles come their way, they can always overcome them.

Is there an achievement or contribution you’re most proud of? Why?

I would say being able to speak up. I was always a shy kid that didn’t say anything. When I was first introduced to therapy at Crittenton, I was that person like, “I ain’t talking to nobody!” But therapy definitely opened my eyes and allowed me to have the space I needed to speak.

I’m also proud of my educational accomplishments. With me already having a child and being 30, I would have been “stuck” at a job instead of being able to focus on my career. So, coming here [to Crittenton] allowed me to use that platform to get my career started, be able to build on it, as well as get a job within my career field. It definitely put a spark in my life to keep me going and doing better.

I’m really trying to break generational curses. By that I mean: I graduated from high school, and I went to college. Even though I got pregnant during my sophomore year, I still went. Considering that nobody in my family even attended or graduated from high school, I felt like that was a big change and accomplishment for me. I ended up looking towards helping other people. That’s how I landed in the nursing field. After I have my little one, I’ll be going back to school to become an RN. I’m just trying to do something that I wasn’t guided to do.

Krista's Journey:

We have all experienced fights and clashes with our family, but what happens when that leaves you with little support, resorting to couch hopping just to have a roof over your head? This was Krista’s reality. Krista, 25, has been pregnant before and now has a 2-year-old son. With her first pregnancy, she had a lot of support from her mother making sure she could get to doctors’ appointments and even helping her care for her newborn son’s needs after birth. Some months ago, Krista found herself pregnant with her second child – she was going to have a sweet baby girl. She knew that meant she couldn’t keep couch hopping and needed to find her own place. However, with the unborn baby’s father getting locked up, the passing of her own father at the beginning of the year, and now being estranged from her mother, Krista realized she needed help but had nowhere to go. 

Krista applied to live at Crittenton and was accepted into the Maternity Program. Crittenton has been able to provide her with safe housing, consistent meals, life skills classes, and access to prenatal care. Most impactful for Krista, however, has been the chance to begin therapy. She grew up feeling like an outcast in her family and experienced trauma growing up. She was also shot in the arm during her first pregnancy which led to a pre-eclampsia diagnosis. Krista said therapy is helping her work through her PTSD and anger issues she developed. She wants to continue to heal and grow to ensure she is her best self for her children.  

Krista felt the parenting classes Crittenton offers have helped her learn more about how to care for her future newborn. With her first child, her mother took on most of the tasks that come with caring for a newborn. Krista understands that she will mostly be doing all of that on her own with her second child, so she is grateful to learn more skills to effectively care for both of her children. “I’m going to show them love, but not tough love how my parents did. I also want them to know they can come to me about anything. You can come and talk to me. I don’t want my kids to feel unloved, unwanted, or like they’re out here on their own,” she said.  

At Crittenton, she has also become more aware of the vocational resources and opportunities available to her. Her motivation to succeed and provide for her children is stronger than ever, with hopes of owning her own clothing business one day. Crittenton and its supporters have provided Krista with a place to work on her mental health and her goals before she transitions to independence following birth. She feels empowered to believe in herself and provide a better life for her children than she had growing up.  




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C-“My Crittenton story has a number of chapters. It starts 14 years ago when I got pregnant at age 16. My stepmother refused to help me, and I refused to live in a house with no heat in the winter. Not with my child. A social worker who had been visiting the house referred me to Crittenton. I applied and got into Sarah’s House, a mother-child program, and I learned to bond with my child born that year.

At Crittenton, I found safety and reassurance that I was OK and that things would be alright. I am still close to Crittenton staff members who were selfless, really cared and were there for more than a paycheck. They taught me how to be a mother, how to feed and bathe my child, and they provided me the parenting I had lacked for the previous six years since.

We lived at Crittenton for more than two years, and they taught me how to live independently with my son. While we were there, I also worked full-time and got my GED.

At Crittenton, I saw a side of caring and social work very different than what many speak to today. Today, my son is 14 and I am completing coursework in social work myself at UNCC.  Crittenton taught me how important it is to pay it forward. 

The Crittenton community continues to be a big part of my life. In fact, I met my best friend there and have many Crittenton friends who I talk to often.”

L was 13 years old when she was admitted to our maternity
program. She remained in DSS custody due to the incarceration of both of her
parents, as well as her maternal aunt and her brother. L’s mother and brother
are both addicts. Her brother is serving time for assaulting L while becoming
enraged under the influence of narcotics.

On the day that L was admitted, we took her to the emergency
room to have staples removed from the head injury. She has had to testify in
court and struggles with feeling responsible for his incarceration. Previously “home
schooled” by her mother, L made a successful transition to public school. She
responds well to our structured and stable environment. She is well-behaved,
compliant and respectful. She enjoys spending time in our vocational lab and
hanging out with her friends. Despite her young age, she is a very nurturing
mother to her son, and she loves to learn all that she can about parenting. She
just turned 14 years old.

“Crittenton has been a great deal to me and my baby girl. I appreciate all the staff that took the time out to cater to my everyday needs. Although it was a rough and stressful start, it has gotten much better than what I had expected. Thanks for providing me with a service that can’t go without recognition. I’m going to miss everyone that took part in my pregnancy journey, which seemed like a long time.

During my stay here I managed to accomplish housing, education, a job, and responsibility. Thanks to Crittenton, I have the confidence to complete any task that I put my mind to. It’s been a great experience and another chapter that was added, and I can’t wait to tell my story.”

Six weeks after her 13th birthday, F became pregnant by her boyfriend- a 17 year-old, unemployed high school dropout. F’s own mother was a young woman who died before F was one year old and F’s father was incarcerated about 12 years ago, and he remains in prison. F has lived with her grandmother most of her life. Her grandmother was upset about the pregnancy, and concerned because F had shown disruptive behavior in school, was involved in several physical fights at school, and had a poor attitude both at home and at school.

F was admitted to FCS during the summer enrolled to start the 7th grade at school in the fall. Keeping F in school was a priority. Although F was occasionally challenging with regard to going to school, she began to attend school on a daily basis. Medical care is another huge priority for a pregnant child, and FCS staff was especially diligent in making sure that F went to all of her medical appointments, and received all prenatal care.

F often had to be re-directed by staff because of her negative behavior. She became easily upset and angry; however, over time she learned to interact more appropriately with her peers and staff. She responded very well to the Mentor who was provided by the FCS Volunteer Coordinator and to opportunities to be one-on-one with staff. She particularly seemed to enjoy working with staff on specific projects. F was a resident in the Maternity Program at FCS for 6 months before she delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 7 lbs. and 3 oz. She was discharged with the baby to her Grandmother. F is currently being followed up through FCS’s aftercare program, and she is doing very well.

F is a perfect example of the challenging situation our clients are in. Pregnancy alone is difficult. Once the numerous overwhelming variables our residents face are accounted for as well, it is easy to see how important FCS is in their lives. We provide a safe place for our clients to get their lives on track. We enable them to prepare for a solid, productive, and healthy future.

You kick, and everything gets better. You bring love and joy to myself and everyone that comes in contact with you.

You kick, and I don’t remember all the negative things that the doctor told me. You are strong. I can feel it, and together we will over come anything.

You kick, and my dad calls and asks for us to work on having a relationship that was never there.

You kick, and your father decides to go to school and get on when everyone had stopped believing in him. You make him new and I see that. I love you, and don’t have to say anything. Its visible through your eyes. The both of you have a relationship that makes me happy and jealous.

You kick, and the world becomes a better place. You are a miracle and I’m honored to have you living inside me.

-Written by former FCS client

J. was one of the first clients that came to Legacy Hall when it opened. Working on obtaining independence, she was having difficulties in foster care because she needed to develop skills that could allow her to move out on her own. J came to Legacy Hall and was led through life-skill courses that taught her grocery shopping skills, how to schedule and maintain doctor appointments on her own. She also was able to make better grades in her college classes. Staff eventually helped her to look for an apartment in a neighboring county where she was able to move in within a few months, having saved enough money to maintain. Once she moved out of Legacy Hall, J continued in school and improved her grades the following semester, started a job at a local department store, and has since gotten married. She is living in a nice two-bedroom apartment with her husband and is soon expecting their first child.

When asked what she learned from the program at Legacy Hall, J explained:

Many lessons on how to be independent.

How to build a credit score and how bad it can be once you get bad credit.

I learned the value of time.

I finally learned how to look for an apartment.

I have resisted peer pressure even at the cost of friendship.

I improved my relationship with my mother by finally accepting the role she plays.

I got my driver’s license (my first step towards independence.); Courage: I was scared to drive or ever be on the road alone.

I learned how to put together a support team and not run away from those who care about you…“don’t burn bridges.”

You are given the opportunity to make a difference every day. Whether you are cooking the food, teaching a class, transporting the babies to childcare, or collecting donations, everything and everyone works together to help our clients be successful.

Last night one of our amazing relief staff went above and beyond and assisted our residents with a super fun craft. She bought and brought all of the supplies for the clients to paint and design picture frames for their baby’s’ photos. What a wonderful way for our mom’s-to-be to get excited about the new life about to enter the world. 

Because of your Love,
Because of your Caring,
Because of your Support,
Your Heart,
and Time Spent Sharing,
We Succeed,
We Shine,
We Strive.
We Overcome,
We Achieve,
We Thrive.
We Are, because of You!

Thank you, Crittenton Volunteers,
from the bottom of our hearts!