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Jaclyn Best

Staff Writer Jaclyn Best has a journalism degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. In her spare time, she writes fiction and poetry.

Many people do not consider alcohol a “drug”, but alcohol is the most popular drug that American teenagers use.  Many kids decide to try alcohol before they even become teens.  Boys usually have their first drink at age 11, while most girls try alcohol around age 13.  As many as 10 million young people (from ages 12 to 20) have admitted to consuming at least one drink in the past month.  Even more disturbing, Columbia University reported that out of all the alcohol drinkers in America, 11.4 percent are underage.  Studies have shown that those who start drinking before age 15 have a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence/abuse later in life than those who start drinking at the legal age.  By abusing alcohol at a young age, teens are also more prone to accidents.  In 2010 alone, 189,000 teens had accidental injuries because of alcohol consumption.

Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to develop severe health problems.  Those who start drinking in their teen years are at a greater risk of developing binge drinking.  Most health professionals agree that drinking more than four drinks a day is considered bingeing.  In the long term, this habit will eventually damage one’s liver and other organs, like the heart, stomach and pancreas.

In addition, these same teenagers can develop mental health issues.  Since alcohol is a depressant and can alter one’s brain chemistry, it has the ability to dull the inhibition “controls” in the brain.  When this happens, a person becomes very relaxed and can make choices that they would never make if they were sober.  Another negative to excess drinking is that it can increase one’s chances of developing depression.  Alcohol has the ability to affect the serotonin in the brain.  This is the chemical that helps to regulate moods.  When this chemical is lowered from alcohol, this can create a depressing mood, which can lead to more drinking.

While it can be difficult to determine whether or not your child is involved with alcohol, there are some specific signs to look for:

  • Physical: Constant cough with no other cold symptoms, glazed/red eyes, constant tiredness, etc.
  • Family: Withdrawing from family members, has outbursts or frequent arguments with family or even breaking the rules in one’s household.
  • School: Grades are suffering, he/she skips school resulting in several absences and has disciplinary problems in school.
  • Emotional: Cranky, little interest in anything, changes in personality and has low self-esteem.

The first most important step a parent can take for their child is to “teen-proof” their house.  If one or both parents consume alcohol, it would be wise to consider either locking alcoholic beverages away or ridding the house of them completely.  Another beneficial tactic would be to hide all medications, as a teen could use them as a means to “feel good.”

While underage drinking cannot be cured overnight, one can take comfort in the fact that there are dozens of organizations ready and willing to help teens who have substance abuse disorders.  Getting treatment is crucial when battling alcoholism in an underage drinker, and it can be almost impossible to “cure” someone without professional help.  While many programs geared toward adults may not be as helpful to a teenager, there are others that are focused toward younger people, like the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.  Another organization called Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) can also be of help.  If you fear that your son or daughter may be abusing alcohol, the SAMHSA Web site can be a great starting point to find nearby facilities for treatment: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/TreatmentLocator/faces/addressSearch.jspx?state=CO.

Editor’s Note: For additional resources, see the Parenting Resources section of our website under Teens. www.dcparenting.org

Teen Problem Drinking

Peer Pressure

two young girls laughing behind another girls back

Jaclyn Best

Staff Writer Jaclyn Best  is a journalist and fiction author. She has a journalism degree from Metropolitan State University.

Peer pressure is something that everyone has experienced and will experience for the rest of their lives.  Whether someone is in the fourth grade or the CEO of a major company, that person will always be exposed to social pressures.  There are pressures from society as well as from friends, however, the age group that is most affected by peer pressure is teenagers.

There are a number of different peer pressure influences that a child will eventually face.  Children can be pressured by their schoolmates over a myriad of things like: their appearance, who they should date, whether or not to have sexual relations, or whether they should try drugs and/or alcohol.  This, of course, is considered bad peer pressure and this kind of peer pressure is never in one’s best interest.  For example, a teenager could be coerced into defacing someone’s property or stealing simply because they want to fit in with a particular clique.  On the other hand, good peer pressure is defined as one’s friends and family encouraging him or her to reach their goals.  This kind of “pressure” can be very helpful in a teen’s life.  If a person has people that they care about supporting them, they will be able to accomplish almost anything.

When your son or daughter starts to experience peer pressure, there are a few signs to look out for.  The desire to fit in with a certain group of people can sometimes consume a teen, and they will do whatever they can to be included.  There is also a persistent fear that he or she will lose their social standing.  Because they are not sure whom to please, they may feel like they have no control over their lives.  They may even suffer from feelings of guilt after doing something that they did not want to do.  Instead of making their own decisions, they will likely let someone else decide for them, which can lead to a low self-esteem.

A parent’s best defense against peer pressure is to encourage their child to talk to them if they feel he or she needs help.  Being honest with your son or daughter will help them open up to you.  One of the key things a parent can teach a child is assertiveness.  This is a key trait to have when standing up against peer pressure.  Learning to say “no” is a great tactic to avoid risky situations.  Another way is to be more involved in your child’s life.  It is important to get to know not only your child’s circle of friends, but their parents as well.  If there is a concern that your child is being forced to do things against their will, you can speak with other parents and discuss possible solutions.  Building self-confidence can also help one fight against peer pressures.  Being confident not only raises a person’s self-esteem, it can also make your child strong enough to say “no.”

If these solutions do not work, the next step is to talk to a school counselor or principal and express your concerns.  If you are still worried about your son or daughter’s well-being, you can consider speaking with a mental-health professional to help with self-esteem, mood or behavior issues.

School Avoidance (Part 2)

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Stacy Haldek

In her previous article, Stacy explained why incidents of school avoidance increase near the holidays and what parents can do about it.  Here are some other reasons for school avoidance and strategies to address the problem.

What is school avoidance?  The website, Human Illnesses, defined school avoidance as “when children and teens repeatedly stay home from school or are repeatedly sent home from school, because of emotional problems or because of aches and pains that are caused by emotions or stress and not by medical illness”.  School avoidance, also referred to as school phobia or school refusal, occurs in approximately 2-5% of school age children.  It is most common in 5-6 year olds and 10-11 year olds.

Typical behaviors for a child or teen who has school avoidance is for them to come up with reasons not to go to school, to complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to go to school, or to make repeated visits to the school nurse or counselor once at school, with similar physical complaints.  Often the complaints are vague or non-specific.  In more severe cases, such as school phobia, common physical complaints are aches and pains, headaches, stomach concerns, muscle tension, and dizziness.  In the most severe case of anxiety, students may complain of difficulty breathing and tightening in the chest, which can be an indicator of a panic attack.  The symptoms typically disappear once the child is allowed to go home and during the weekends or over school breaks.  In addition, when the physical complaints are evaluated by a doctor, there is no medical cause found.

It should be noted that when children and teens complain of physical complaints it should always be assumed that the complaints are legitimate and a medical appointment should be completed to rule out medical issues.  In some severe cases of anxiety, people can develop ulcers and other health issues that should be addressed medically.    It is also important to note, that even if there is no medical problem, the physical complaints are not fake.  The child likely is experience physical discomfort due to emotional distress.

Other symptoms that can develop in children with school avoidance is an increase in tantrums or tantrums that are not age-appropriate, separation anxiety, defiance, and in some cases other mental health concerns such as depression and obsessive behaviors.

I often hear parents say that if it weren’t for the school avoidance they would not have any problems with their child.  They state that other than the avoidance the child follows the rules and does not cause problems in the home.  Most children with school avoidance are of average to above average intelligence.  They are often the children that were quiet and shy in school, but were well liked by adults due to the fact that they were not a disturbance in class and would do what they were told to do.

Why do children/teens develop school avoidance?  Most parents’ initial response is to assume that there is an issue at school.  This may be the case, especially if there is bullying, conflict with a peer or teacher, existing learning disabilities, or fear of failure.  However, often times the avoidance has less to do with the school setting and more to do with the child’s coping skills and/or home environment.

In young children, the school avoidance can be due to fact that they are having some separation anxiety from parents and familiar environment.  With young children they are being introduced to a variety of new challenges, new people, and new environments.  In young children the avoidance may be related to concerns regarding potty training and/or using the bathroom in public.

Children of all ages, including teens, can develop avoidance behaviors when there is a major transition, such as change in the family structure (new siblings, older siblings moving out, separation/divorce, remarriage, military deployment, etc.), moves, or new schools.  Often the avoidance will appear when a student is moving from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school.

It is also important to remember that the adult’s emotional stability can also be a factor.  If parent is stressed or depressed the children may pick up on this.  Children will often have avoidance behaviors if a family member has a serious illness as they are afraid something will happen to the loved one while they are away from the home.  This may also occur after a loved one dies.  The child may feel that they have to stay at home or someone else might die.  If there is domestic violence or substance abuse in the home the child may also feel that they need to be home to protect other family members or to help “keep the peace”.

What can the adults do to help?  First, the adults need to find out what the underlying reason for the avoidance is.  Sometimes the child does not even know the underlying reason and needs help from the adults to figure this out.  Once the reason is determined then the adults can help the child to work on a plan to address the anxiety/fear of going to school.  It is very important to not allow the child to avoid school.  As with all types of anxiety, avoidance causes the problem to become worse, not better.  The longer a child is out of school, the harder it is to return.  A student may need to ease back into school, but they should be going at least a short time every day to start and the time should increase as the days or weeks go by.  Parents can enlist the help of the school to work out a plan for easing a child back into school.  Other professionals who can assist in the plan are the child’s pediatrician and/or mental health professionals.

Adults should not shame the child or make fun of the child for not attending school.  Adults can talk with the student on a regular basis about their feelings and fears as this helps to reduce the fears and stress.  Do not punish the child for avoiding school, but do not inadvertently reward them either.  If the child refuses school and the parent cannot get them there safely, the child should not be allowed to engage in fun activities while at home for the day.  There should be no television, video games, or special treats.  The home environment should be made to be as boring as possible so that it does not reinforce the child’s desire to stay home.

For more suggestions on ways to address  school avoidance, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado.  The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First. 

School Avoidance And Holidays

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Stacy Hladek

We have had three calls to our Family Support Line in the last month related to children refusing to go to school.  It occurred to me that this might be a good topic to address in the blog.  In the twenty years that I have been working with children and families, I have noticed that school avoidance seems to rise around the holidays.  I believe there are a few reasons for the peak in school avoidance around this time of year.  The first is that the semester is finishing up and the stress increase due to projects and tests that are due.  Midterms and finals can be very stressful for students of all ages.  The holidays also tend to bring out stress in most adults and children pick up on our stress levels.  Another reason that school avoidance seems to be up this time of year is due to the school breaks.  It can be especially difficult for a student that has anxiety around school to return after they have had a break for the holidays. Be proactive and implement some of the following strategies to try to head off the possibility that your child will develop school avoidance over the holidays:Take good care of yourself and do what you can to make the holidays as stress-free as possible.  I know, it’s easier said than done.  But if you start planning now to try to decrease stress, even a bit that will be beneficial for you whole family.

Use the holidays as a time to practice self-care and coping skills as a family.

Make sure that you remind your child several times, if not daily, during the break that they will be returning to school after the break.  A good way to do this for younger children is to have a calendar or countdown for when school will start back up.  Also reminding them that parents have to return to work can be helpful.

Talk about all the positives about school.  For example, friends, recess, lunch, and whatever subject your child enjoys the most.  Remind them of the adult(s) they look up to the most.

Remind your child of their future goals and how important school is to reaching those goals.

Remind your child of all the successes he or she has had in school to this point.

Help children that tend to be perfectionist or have a hard time with failure, by reminding them we all have things that we do well and we all have areas we need extra work in.  Point out some of your own strengths and weaknesses.  Let them know they do not have to be perfect or do everything well.

Talk to your child about their feelings regarding school.  This is a good habit to get into not just during the holidays, but on a routine basis.

Make the first day back after holidays as special as you did the first day of school.  Maybe the child can wear a new or favorite outfit to school.  Offer a reward at the end of the school day, such as going to get ice cream or letting them suggest dinner and help prepare it.

If you believe your child is already experiencing school avoidance, be sure to catch the second part of this article in the next blog.

For more suggestions on ways to make the holidays less stressful and reduce the chance of school avoidance, call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns.

The Missing Bulb: Grief, Loss, and the Holidays

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Tobey Stein

  The editors and staff at Parenting PhD. send their very best thoughts to all whose halls may not be quite so merry this year.

There is an empty chair at the holiday table this year.  The person that once sat there is gone.  The missing one isn’t out of town, on vacation, sick or taking a nap. He or she has moved on to wherever it is we go after our time here is finished.  Robin Ove wrote that absence creates a dark spot, like the burned out bulb on a string of holiday lights.  It used to be that if one bulb burned out the whole string went dark, the impact of the one event consuming the whole.  A death in the family can be like that if we let it.  Thanks to technology, modern circuitry can bypass the damage, allowing the string to keep shining, yet we are always reminded of the missing bulb by the gentle shadow it casts.  Loss can be like that if we allow it.

The Joyful Season is one of the most difficult times for those who have recently experienced a death. Surrounded by happy families creating Hallmark moments, their loss is thrown into sharp relief. Those of us who are bystanders may have the well intentioned urge to distract or “cheer up” those who grieve.  We want to “take their minds off things,” at least for the duration of the festivities.  According to grief counselor, Dr. Cendra Lynn, the kindest thing we can do is allow the bereaved to acknowledge their loss in ways that are meaningful to them.  Reading a poem, lighting a candle, or sharing memories are just a few ways families mark the holiday.

A friend of mine allowed her grandchildren to pick out gifts for the relatives from among her late husband’s things the first Christmas after his passing.  Together they wrapped the presents and created a card for each person.  Each card explained why “Granda” would want the recipient to have that particular gift.  They also wrote what they thought their grandfather might have said to that person. The grandfather’s relationship with his gay son had long been a rocky one.  With the innate wisdom of children, the youngsters helped their uncle achieve some closure.  “Bucky,” they wrote on the card, “I love you just the way you are.  Love, Your Dad.”

When there are young children in the family a parent may feel the need to maintain holiday traditions to create a sense of continuity.  It is important, Dr. Lynn points out, for parents to recognize their limits.  “Just because Mom bakes sixteen kinds of Christmas cookies every year doesn’t mean she has to do it this year.”  The holidays are actually a great time to ask for help. Friends who aren’t sure what to do for somebody who has lost a loved one may jump at the chance to be assigned a specific task such as baking cookies, hanging decorations, cleaning the house, or addressing Christmas cards.  While consistency can be comforting, it can also be the proverbial hobgoblin.  All but the youngest children know that holidays will never be quite the same ever again and they will see right through any attempts to pretend otherwise. Involve the kids in planning for the holiday.  You might be surprised by the traditions they want to keep and the ones they could actually care less about.

Some families choose to establish new holiday traditions.   A colleague died suddenly right before Thanksgiving, leaving behind two children in college.  The boys received several invitations for Thanksgiving dinner but they were adamant. “No,” they said, “This is the last food our mother will ever buy and we want to honor her memory by cooking it.”  Up to that point, the pair had never cooked anything more complicated than ramen noodles.  They invited some friends, cranked up the oven to 500 degrees when they discovered the turkey had not thawed, and were seen several hours later running into the yard to fling a smoking turkey into the snow.  The boys and their guests set to work making cheeseburgers and soon everyone was laughing as they imagined what my friend, an excellent cook, would have said about the fossilized turkey and the horrid state of her kitchen. The Fowl Fling has since become an annual tradition.  The event is BYOF, bring your own fowl, and there is a prize for the person who can catapult a chicken or other bird the farthest. (Solidly frozen birds are the most aerodynamic, in case you were wondering.)

Sometimes it is not the most significant other of the deceased but peripheral friends and family who are not ready to move on.  Jean had always been “Mrs. Christmas”.  Her home was a favorite stop on the Holiday Home Tour every December.  The year her husband died, her friends assumed Christmas would be just the same as ever, sans husband.  Instead, my friend reconnected with a childhood pen pal from years before, booked a flight, and spent a summery Christmas on the beaches of Australia.  “But, but, but…” the rest of us were left sputtering.  Later that year when she formed a social group for singles, I was the one who didn’t want to think about how it might alter what was for me a comfortable status quo.  Widows and widowers need to listen to their inner voices.   They can ask friends and relatives to support their plans but they need to stick to their guns if they don’t.

Many well-meaning people believe that bereaved individuals should never be left alone at the holidays.  Perp-marching Uncle Bernie to the holiday Seder may not be the answer.  Some mourners may need to take a year off.  They may choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, go to a movie, take a hike, read that new bestseller, or simply do nothing at all. There is no law that says holidays must be celebrated.

Some other suggestions from the doctor:

  • There may be emotional episodes at gatherings. You don’t have to do or “fix” anything. You just need to be.  Don’t be surprised by children.  They process grief differently.  They may be very sad one minute and laughing with their friends the next.
  • Avoid alcohol.  It doesn’t help.
  • Try to get enough sleep.  Get some exercise—endorphins help.
  • Don’t overdo. Take care of yourself

Grief does not come with an owner’s manual.  There are no timetables and no right or wrong ways to deal with loss.   As for that string of lights hanging crookedly from the eaves, it is the heir to a long tradition.  Many cultures have winter stories of miraculous light. Whether it was the lamp of the Maccabees, the star of Bethlehem, or the victory fires of Diwali, the light they cast eventually died but it was never forgotten.  A bulb or two may have burned out in our lives but their light will always be with us.

You dance inside my chest
Where no one sees you,
But sometimes I do,
And your light becomes my art.

–Mymae

Editor’ Note:  Grief resources and professional referrals can be found on the website at http://www.dcparenting.org

Can You Hear Me Now? Teens and Texting

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JACLYN BEST

Jaclyn Best is a fiction author, journalist, and staff writer for Parenting PhD.  

You are driving to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.  The driver in front of you is swerving in and out of his lane.  You wonder if he has been drinking.  As you drive up to the red light and stop, you glance over in his direction.  To your complete and utter shock, he is looking down at his phone, texting.

This story has become all too common in America.  Almost every person who drives has encountered at least one distracted driver.  Whether a driver is grooming, downloading music, eating, drinking, using a GPS or reading, they are still distracted from the task at hand.  Despite the risk these kinds of distractions pose, experts agree that texting is the most dangerous because it requires more manual, cognitive and visual attention from the driver.

Since 60 percent of teens admit that they are risky drivers, Americans need to become more aware of the dangers of distracted driving and how to prevent it.  At least 16 percent of all fatal car crashes are the result of distracted driving, and roughly 5,000 people die per year from these types of accidents.  As many as 11 percent of drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in accidents were reported as distracted.  What is even scarier is that those who text and drive are 23 times more likely to crash their vehicle.  A young person’s reaction time just when talking on a cell phone is reduced to that of a 70-year-old.  Many experts believe it requires more attention to talk on a cell phone than to talk to a passenger.

One of the best ways to resist the temptation to text and drive would be to put the cell phone in the car where it is impossible to reach.  Another solution could be to put the cell phone on silent.  This means no sound at all, not even for notifications.  If there is another passenger in the car, the driver can even ask the passenger to do the texting for him or her.  While the driver can still be somewhat distracted by speaking to the passenger, it is far safer than if the driver was texting.  If your son or daughter still feels compelled to text while in the car, he or she can pull over to the side of the road and do so there.

A positive reinforcement for teens would be to take a pledge to stop being distracted while driving.  One Web site in particular can help teens do just that: http://www.ItCanWait.com.  This site encourages teens to take a stand against texting and driving while also bringing more awareness to this epidemic.  There are also applications that one can download to a cell phone to help stop texting while in the car, such as: AT&T DriveMode, DriveSafe.ly, and Textecution among others.

Many people believe that the new texting ban in Colorado will solve the texting epidemic, but current studies have shown that texting laws have not minimized the problem.  The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) has done extensive research on the benefits of texting bans.  In 3 out of the 4 states studied (California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington), they found there were an increased number of car accidents.  Instead of being a deterrent to texters, drivers are hiding their phones in their laps to shield them from patrolling police officers.  In addition to concentrating on what he or she is typing into the phone, many drivers are also now actively trying to keep their cell phones hidden.  Not only does this increase the need for more motor and cognitive skills, this impairs one’s ability to drive even more.

While one’s child should learn to take control of problematic texting habits, parents can still take certain steps to help their son or daughter prevent distracted driving.  A good rule of thumb could be to not text or call your child when you are certain that they are driving.  The most important thing a parent can do to help their child break this dangerous habit is to set a great example and not text and drive as well.  Only then will teens learn that their text can indeed wait.

Editor’s Note: More safe driving resources can be found on the Parenting PhD. website at www.dcparenting.org

Homeless Youth In Douglas County, Colorado

Close-up of Teen Boy 

KRISTA VACHON

Award winning journalist Krista Vachon is a staff writer for Parenting PhD.  Her work has appeared in Metrosphere Magazine and  Center for Research Strategies publications.

Youth homelessness in Douglas County is a serious issue. While many families are fortunate enough to sit around a table every night eating a hearty dinner, there are several displaced teens who are not as lucky. The man or woman cuddled up in the sleeping bag next to the stream that runs through town, may very well be an adolescent, struggling to make ends meet.

Under the McKinny Vento Law, “homeless” is classified as: “Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations, are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement; to name a few.”

A 2012-2013 report released by the Douglas County School District, found the approximate number of homeless students in Pre-K to 12th grade is an alarming 902 youths. 48% of the students are male, while 52% are female. 780 of these students live in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, and the other 122 are not in the custody of a parent or guardian.

The Student Wellness Coordinator for Douglas County, Staci McCormack, acknowledges the homelessness in the community and provides food for displaced high school kids during the weekends. Some of the homeless children and their families she encounters are staying in shelters, doubled up, unsheltered, or living in a hotel/motel.

“Right now, 60 food packs are delivered each week. These 60 packs a week serve only our kids in alternative schools and do not include the 7 large, public high schools,” says McCormack.

McCormack said that the number of food packs served, changes on a weekly basis and are based on that week’s specific needs. As of now, McCormack doesn’t have the resources or manpower to serve the public schools, but has made it a goal next school year.

There are several contributing factors that lead to youth homelessness such as:

  • Natural Disaster
  • Foreclosure
  • Job Loss
  • Death of a Parent
  • Kicked Out/Runaway
  • Legal Issues
  • Eviction
  • Divorce
  • Abuse/Dysfunction
  • Medical/Mental issues
  • General Financial Hardship

“I work with kids who are just being teens and struggle for a variety of reasons. The kids I work with might have gotten in a fight with their parents so they stormed out of the house for a week or so,” states McCormack.

She also works with young expectant parents who seek independence by setting out on their own. However, working and going to night school, and paying for an apartment and everyday necessities such as food and gas, can become too difficult for the youth.

Another issue McCormack often comes across in Douglas County is teenagers whose parents travel a lot for work. They leave their children at home to fend for their selves, which are often times difficult for the child.

“The kids I work with sleep at friend’s homes, in their cars at Walmart, along a stream we have running through town, and at a local hotel.”

According to the Douglas County Report, feeder schools, such as Mountain Vista High School, (Central/Northern Highlands Ranch) have approximately 57 homeless youths.

Former student of Mountain Vista High School, Tabitha Cordova was homeless while trying to finish high school.

“My mom threw me out because I was caught smoking cigarettes. My mom and I didn’t have a healthy mother daughter relationship so instead of being able to talk with her about anything, I went behind her back,” Cordova said.

“I was kicked out for the first time when I was 15. I would literally live with my friends or whoever my boyfriend was at the time. The most support I got was with my ex, Dakota’s, family. They helped me graduate high school and become a better person in general. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I would be right now as an adult,” she says.

“When I was first kicked out I pretty much couldn’t get to school and I couldn’t maintain the grades I had. I ended up being a super senior, but I at least did it, even though it was a year after I was supposed it.”

Cordova said during her time of homelessness, her mother provided her zero support. She was 100% responsible for herself at the tender age of 15.

“I luckily was able to get jobs while I was “homeless.” It wasn’t much but did help me.

“Being homeless almost makes a person stronger. I know for a fact I do not ever want to be in that position again. I am now in college and have a great job and a beautiful child. God takes care of me and I am blessed for all the people who have supported me when I was nothing. My mother and I also have a beautiful relationship now. I can call her my best friend now. Sometimes you just have to go through things to appreciate what you have.”

She said at the time her mother threw her out, she didn’t agree with her decision, but looking back as an adult, now understands why her mother made that decision.

Tabitha’s story is just one of many the children of Douglas County face. Thankfully, the Douglas County Community of Care Network (CCN) has been established and addresses issues of poverty and homelessness in the County. CCN is working to educate the community regarding the need to support its residents facing homelessness, providing client based collaboration to more effectively and efficiently help those in need, and by working to initiate system-wide changes that will better serve this vulnerable population.