Tiffany

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Tiffany just wants her child back.

After her own childhood in and out of foster care, she craves a normal mother-child relationship. So in order to see her toddler, who is almost three, Tiffany bounces back and forth with the constantly changing dates her CPS worker gives for visiting her daughter, with a foster family. Tiffany says her daughter is confused by the inconsistent routine over the six months she’s been with this foster family and when her mother leaves, the daughter cries, hits and tears her clothing. “She wants to come home with me and they kept telling her that she can’t. And she gets upset, tries to choke the foster mom,” Tiffany says. “She starts slamming doors, she yells, she hits.” It takes hours to calm her down.

She has had seven children.

A daughter win 2003 she had while she was a pregnant teenager in juvenile hall. The child was adopted out. Her son, born in 2004 was also adopted out, and because she had an “open CPS case” (cases are open for five years). She had no other children for the next seven years, then had seven back to back. Three of them died soon after being born. One was delivered, but the doctors said she spontaneously aborted herself, and though her heartbeat was normal, she died soon thereafter. Another child was adopted out to a family when he was five days old. The family got permission to take the child to Mexico, despite his fragile condition. He became ill in Mexico, was airlifted to a children’s hospital in L.A., where they denied the baby a heart because he was born without a spleen. The parents took the remains back to Mexico for burial and Tiffany never got to see him before or during the funeral.

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Another child was born prematurely and died, while she was living in the riverbed. A cousin is raising Tiffany’s daughter, now 4. They talk all the time. Her oldest child has said he wants to see her, and get to know his real mother. She says she doesn’t want to be in her current situation when he comes looking for her, “homeless, struggling, lost like the rest of the souls.”

Tiffany,33, says she’s on a waiting list for three or four different programs so she can establish a sober-living residency, and hopefully into permanent housing. She knows better than most how to survive on the streets, but she knows in order to get her children back, she has to convince the various entities she feels don’t believe she can change, that she is indeed serious about making those changes. Her past haunts her. When the police were called about a knife attack in the park, where a woman came at Tiffany with a blade, accusing her of sleeping with her husband, the woman fled, but the police arrested Tiffany, since she has previous charges against her (even though she was acquitted of those charges, they still appear when police run her name). So they took her child to the where she is now, and Tiffany was taken to a mental lock up, then jail. Of course when she was free, she had to find out where they took her baby.

Her personal story of being in abusive households as a foster child, add to her anxiety of what is happening to her own children right now. She was forced to perform sex acts on the biological children at one foster home, she says. “I had to grow up before my time. I never actually got to be a kid.” Finding her own biological brother helped heal her broken heart, she says. But he wasn’t someone she could live with. She says she’s sober, been sober since she got pregnant with her youngest child. She wants to go to school, get a real education, develop a career, possibly open up a home for street children, where working parents can bring their children during the day, and where homeless youth can be safe and carefree; something she was never allowed to be.

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Peggy Peattie