It Takes a Village

Posted Oct 05, 2011 by 16 Comments

Watching someone hand over their children to a stranger is uncomfortable. I know it happens every day in the Safe Families network, but I never imagined witnessing it until I sat across from Tabetha as she prepared to do what no parent should have to do—all because of a regrettable accident.

In January, Tabetha was the victim of a hit and run. The accident nearly killed her. She survived after four months in the hospital, but she lost both of her legs above the knee. That alone is overwhelming, but there’s more: Tabby is raising a five year-old and three year-old twin girls alone.

The Meeting

Tabby’s beautiful twins—Brittany and Breanna

I cautiously took a place at the table in a downtown community center where the meeting had already begun. Tabetha filled out paperwork while her three year-old twins, Brittany and Breanna, ran circles around us all. Safe Families social worker Lisa guided Tabby along as the two Safe Families moms for the twins asked questions about bedtimes, favorite foods and other details that they would need in order to care for Brittany and Breanna over the next few months.

Lisa and the Safe Families moms offered Tabby every reassurance they possibly could. She couldn’t have found more trustworthy hosts for her girls, and a more trustworthy organization to watch out for them.

Regardless, these are her children. I fidgeted nervously as Tabby whispered a quiet but emotional goodbye to her daughters and sadly watched as we buckled them into their car seats and drove them away to their temporary homes.

Eye Opening

A few days later, I visited Tabby. I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I drove through her neighborhood to the chorus of a loud dispute on someone’s front porch, and further down the block I passed a house just in time to watch the police escort someone out in handcuffs. As I turned onto Tabby’s street, I spotted the house by the extensive wooden ramp leading up to her door (compliments of Shepherd Community Center, Indianapolis).

Shepherd Community Center coordinated this ramp leading up to Tabby’s door

Tabby welcomed me into her home where Bethany—Tabby’s bouncy five year-old—greeted me and told me about her day at school. As I looked around the house, I realized that things weren’t all exactly “wheelchair friendly”. Stair steps, high cabinets and all sorts of normal household features suddenly seemed like blaring obstacles.

I settled into a chair in a family room lined with photos as Tabby moved across from me, smoothly maneuvering her wheelchair to face me. After a little catching up, she began sharing more about what she’s been through. It shook me more than I was prepared for.

Her Struggle

Tabby recounted the shock, confusion and pain of the accident in vivid detail. She also explained what it felt like to wake up and realize her legs were gone. The accident altered Tabby’s life in a matter of moments. Most strikingly, it changed her ability to parent.

Her girls are wonderful, but they’re still young. Tabby painfully recounted the story of one of her daughters running out of the house and into a busy road in a matter of seconds, and she couldn’t run after her. She expressed frustration that when her little twins acted up, they only had to run up the stairs to avoid discipline.

Women from Grace Community Church lending a hand in Tabby’s home

To make matters worse, Tabby’s girls contracted head lice. I can say with firsthand knowledge that these little buggers are tough to kick, and Tabby already struggled with the normal day-to-day responsibilities of parenting. The situation wasn’t working.

Help

Then, Tabby did perhaps the bravest thing she could have for her girls: she sent them to be with  a Safe Family.

Tabby decided to place her two young twins with Safe Families until she sorts some things out at home and in her own life. Even though she sees her girls often, it’s hard to be without them. “You get that feeling of emptiness for a while, you’re just like, why can’t I keep this together?” she told me through tears.

Her frustration washed over me until there tears wet my cheeks as well. Tabby struggles to pull her own life back together, but her priority is making sure that her girls thrive.

Brittany patiently sitting through lice treatment

I asked where her strength comes from, and she instantly told me, “My kids. I want them to know no matter what that I love them.” When Tabby learned about Safe Families, they told her “…they would help me get through this. That’s all I’m praying for now—gettin’ through one more step, to the next step.” And Safe Families walks beside her in more ways than expected.

Abounding Support

Brittany and Breanna live in wonderful, caring homes right now, and they’re lice free! Safe Families staff took it upon themselves to help with hair treatments of the twins and their sister Bethany who is still at home. I will fondly hold the image of Safe Families staff tirelessly “nit-picking” these squirmy little girls in my mind forever. That’s love.

Safe Families also dispatched a “GO Group” from Grace Community church to help clean up around Tabby’s house. I joined these eager women along with Krista and Lisa from Safe Families as they tackled every surface with sponges and bleach, eager to lend a hand.

Above all of the tangible, physical help that Safe Families is lending Tabby, they walk beside her emotionally. Tabby joined the Safe Families network the same week as the organization’s annual benefit. In (divinely inspired) coincidence, the speaker for the event was Josh Bleill—a young man who lost both of his legs in the war in Iraq.

Safe Families staff quickly invited Tabby to the event where she not only saw Josh speak, but she sat down and spoke with him about the pains and frustrations of learning to use prosthetic legs—something that Tabby had given up on at the time.

Tabetha and her family member watching Josh speak at the Safe Families benefit

Josh’s encouragement was invaluable. Tabby confidently told me that she would keep trying the prosthetics and that merely seeing Josh walk around restored her hope. “I’ll walk again,” she said, “and my kids will be excited to see it.”

Moving Forward

Tabby’s strength is humbling. This open, unassuming woman radiates determination. I would find her situation crushing if not for the help that she has around her. Tabby has a long road ahead, but I am at ease knowing that she is well supported—more like dearly loved—by so many people who are surrounding her.

This support reaches into complicated places of need that require more than prescriptive fixes. Yes, she obviously needs a ramp to get into her house, and she needs help cleaning, but she also wants to feel at home in her own skin again and be at peace with the loss of her legs. More than anything, Tabby wants to be a good mother to her children.

Safe Families and her other supporters can’t do these things, but they can clear Tabby’s path of obstacles. Now, she is free to heal and move forward with the strength that is already inside of her.

Enjoy this post? Get future updates sent to you for free! Join by email or RSS

Next Steps
    • Would you like to send an encouraging message to Tabetha? Leave a comment below, and I’ll be sure she reads it.
    • Learn more about Safe Families by visiting their website: www.safe-families.org
    • Consider volunteering with Safe Families. The organization can use your talents and time to help impact the lives of children and families.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

More posts by Follow Laura on Twitter


Comments

  1. Estevan said... 

    Reply

    October 5th, 2011 at 2:23 pm  

    Such a good article Laura! What a story of strength and hope!! My thoughts and prayers go out to Tabby, and to the wonderful work that Safe Families is doing in the community!

  2. Laurie said... 

    Reply

    October 5th, 2011 at 5:36 pm  

    I loved this article. We are in the process of getting SFFC started in Salem, OR. It has been a slow process for us, we are in the process of desperately needing families to engage as “Host Families”. We have plenty of referrals for children/youth to be placed, but not enough homes.
    I would be interested in hearing some stories on how other areas have successfully “recruited” families.

    Thank you!
    Laurie Rumetsch
    Catholic Community Services
    Safe Families For Children

  3. Chuck Gross said... 

    Reply

    October 5th, 2011 at 6:28 pm  

    Laura: Thanks for catching the heart in this coverage of Tabby. I first met Tabby at the Safe Families for Children Central Indiana (SFFCCI) annual fund raising event in September. She shows a lot of strength of character. I am glad she and SFFCCI came together. Both are blessed by the opportunity to serve and demonstrate Biblical hospitality.
    Chuck Gross
    President – Advisory Board

  4. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 5th, 2011 at 10:33 pm  

    Chuck and Estevan: Agreed! Tabby is one inspirational lady, and Safe Families is a great model for what “community” really means.

    Laurie: I’m so excited to hear this! The movement for volunteer host families has been a BIG success over the past three years–I’m going to put some of the staff members in touch with you to share a little about their journey to this point. I hope it helps! :)

  5. Jeff Unruh said... 

    Reply

    October 6th, 2011 at 2:48 pm  

    Laura,
    Thanks for the vivid picture of need–and how it is met–literally next door here in Indianapolis. It’s amazing how many pople Jesus shows up through in this one story! Thanks for writing.

  6. Dave Rod said... 

    Reply

    October 6th, 2011 at 3:06 pm  

    Laura, stunning on so many levels. Hoping this will open doors to Safe Families all over the country!

  7. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    October 7th, 2011 at 8:09 am  

    Laura – my heart just goes out to Tabby. God bless the moms who are taking such good care of the twins. I just love love love this ministry. Assure Tabbetha that “Jo” is praying for her. It has to be hard to raise three little girls alone…as a healthy parent…and to add tragedy and the healing needed – just overwhelming. What I love about your article is that it shows us the real situation. We usually hear and see a TV special or a news story…all polished and edited down to the tears being shown at just the right time. Some of us don’t want that – we want to know the real story so we can pray with a broken heart – so we can help with compassion and not pity. May Jesus continue to show up for Tabby in ways she could never imagine. My prayer is that she sees Jesus for who HE is. Thank you so much for sharing Laura. Can’t wait for the day we can join this team.

  8. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 7th, 2011 at 8:10 am  

    Jeff: So true! I keep seeing examples of people stepping forward, willing to lend a hand in some seemingly little way, and it turns out that they are bringing Christ’s love to others…something so much bigger than any of us.

    Dave: I hope so too. Also, the details of Tabby’s story are unique, but the spirit of it happens daily in this organization.

  9. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 7th, 2011 at 8:14 am  

    Jo: Thank you for sharing–this certainly isn’t an easy story to read, but it’s important. I will make sure that Tabby receives your message!

  10. diane palma said... 

    Reply

    October 8th, 2011 at 4:03 pm  

    Thank you again, Laura, for your hard work! Your articles are so valuable and meaningful. All of us as SFFC appreciate your heart and talant.

  11. Barry Rodriguez said... 

    Reply

    October 9th, 2011 at 5:12 am  

    Fantastic article, Laura. It’s so awesome knowing that Safe Families is willing to step into the gap for these families!

  12. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 9th, 2011 at 6:58 pm  

    Thanks Diane and Barry! There are still a few things left to come about Safe Families. Keep an eye on the World Next Door website this week :)

  13. Donna said... 

    Reply

    October 14th, 2011 at 9:27 pm  

    In tears for the love expressed through simply..walking beside her…and removing the obstacles…and not telling her she cant do it cause she can with a team of support..I love this story

  14. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 18th, 2011 at 9:48 am  

    I’m glad, Donna! You’ll be glad to know that Tabby is working with prosthetic legs now. She greeted me STANDING when I saw her the other day!

  15. Andrea said... 

    Reply

    October 22nd, 2011 at 12:12 am  

    What an amazing story.

  16. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    October 25th, 2011 at 2:37 pm  

    It definitely is, Andrea! Tabby and her girls are all still doing well :)

Leave a Reply