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Hopes and Dreams Shared Stories

I am a CASA because I had a CASA

Allison_Gilbreath November 17, 2014
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Imagine being 11 years old and living in constant fear of walking home from the bus stop to discover a dead body. By this age, this nightmare was my reality. I had already witnessed my mother cutting her wrists, abusing prescription pills, and leaving my sister and me a suicide note. There were days when I hated her, days when I wanted to run away; but I knew I couldn’t because I loved her more than I hated her. I realized from movies and television shows that kids like me ended up in foster care, and from what those shows looked like I was better off where I was.

I knew what social workers looked for – children who were misbehaving, poorly dressed, underweight, or even depressed. I devised a master plan to keep myself under the raider by overachieving. I went from a B/C student to a straight A student, was extremely well-behaved, played in the school Orchestra, joined the volleyball team. At home I prepared my own meals when my mother was using pills, sent myself to bed early, by most importantly kept my mouth shut. My middle school held a contest to win tickets to a Washington Redskins football game where every teacher had to enter the most well-behaved student’s name each week for a month. I was called into the principal’s office one day, my heart was racing preparing for them to tell me something happened to my mother, instead she informed that all of my teachers had entered my name every week and I had won the contest. My life looked so perfect from the outside.

My worst fear came to light one day on my walk from school when I turned the corner to my street to see fire trucks and ambulances in front of my home. My friends were wondering why I was walking so slowly to my house – I wasn’t ready to accept what was waiting for me.  It was the longest most somber walk of my life. When I arrived I learned that my mother was still alived and needed to be rushed to the hospital. I rode in the back of the ambulance with the EMT who began to ask me if I had seen my mother do this before. That is when the lying began. I lied to everyone, the EMT’s, the doctor’s, social workers, even my military Father who had divorced my mother and was away at sea when she began to spiral downhill. They all believed me when I told them this was an isolated incident.

No one understood what that feeling of wanting to protect her was like. That all changed with one person. I was assigned a court appointed special advocate who came to visit me at school. She was the only person who just wanted to get to know Allison, forget about what was going on at home. She explained that she was not here to judge me or my mother – and told me that secrets can eat you alive from the inside out – the only way to free yourself is to tell the truth. Eventually I told her what was going on and she told me how proud she was of me for telling the truth. We then began a process of rehabilitation treatment for my mother, me moving in with my best friend for several weeks, and beginning the process of going from being an adult to back to a child.

I’m here to tell you that one person can completely change the outcome of a child. I believe that God sent her to me as my guardian angel because I needed her so that I could fulfill my life’s purpose. If she would not have come into my life, I wouldn’t have gone on to graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University, intern at the General Assembly, Governor’s office and pursue a Masters degree in Social Work. Most importantly, in April 2011 I had the honor and privilege of becoming a CASA volunteer myself.

I could speak to you all day about why we as a community need to protect our children. I’m not the only child who has experienced this or is currently experiencing this. We have to stand up for children and break the cycle of abuse in families. My mother experienced severe abuse and neglect as a child, and neglected her children by self-medicating unknowingly passing that trait onto me. The chain has been broken; I am free because of ONE person.

I am now happily married to the love of my life and look forward to bringing children in this world and loving them infinitely. My mother is now one of my best friends, and I talk to her almost every day. I could not imagine my life without her unconditionally love, support, and guidance. Mothers and Fathers like her need your support.

I ask for you to look for the little Allison’s in the world. The one’s trying to make their life look as perfect as possible, when they are CRYING out for your help. I ask that you support organizations who support children and families because it is our duty as human beings to ensure every child has an opportunity to succeed.

I believe we were all created for a purpose. When you leave this earth, you will not be remembered for your career you will be remembered for the lives you touch. That’s my call to action, to touch someone’s life. Whether it’s starts with volunteering for an organization you believe in, helping someone in need, or being there for your children to help them grow. Remember one person can change the outcome of generations. I am living proof.

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  1. James Warren November 17, 2014

    Thanks for sharing, Allison! This is a powerful story of triumph – both for your mother and for you.


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