As teens, Terra Bryson and her husband used drugs some, but they had been clean 10 years and were raising three children when a moment of vulnerability led to relapse.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services was called about the children’s safety, and investigators found drugs and other issues. Like thousands of children across the country, the Bryson’s three children – aged 12 to XX — were taken into foster care. Soon after, Mrs. Bryson learned she was pregnant with their fourth child.
“It was worse than dying…I spent many nights just lying on the floor crying. It was devastating. I’m a great mom. I’m not the kind of person this happens to,” she said. “We messed up, got pressed down by the weight of the world and took the wrong route. I was suicidal for awhile.”
She gave up the drugs immediately; it took her husband a little longer. After the children were taken, he spiraled out of control. There was intensive rehab and counseling – sometimes four days each week and three hours each day.
Still, when Terra had her fourth child, the baby was placed in foster care for its safety. The couple was heartbroken.
“We were told that you don’t come back from this. That you don’t get your children back,” Mrs. Bryson said. “We refused to believe that. We kept pushing forward and pushing forward.”
Youth Villages stepped in to help the couple complete the requirements to reunite their family. The Brysons did mental health assessments, and went to anger management classes, parenting classes, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Specialists worked with both the parents and the children; the oldest was angry with her parents for what they’d done and at first refused to come to visitation.
The odds of getting the children home? Someone told Mrs. Bryson it was 5 in 1000. In a courtroom hallway, she overheard talk about her case: “They’re working so hard. It’s sad they’ll never get their kids back.”
As an organization, Youth Villages believes that children are raised best by their families, and that with the right intensive support and therapy, parents who suffer from addiction can overcome their challenges and bring up their children safely in their own homes.
“Our specialist always believed that we could bring the children home,” Mrs. Bryson said. “She was supportive and took charge when we needed her.”
After ten months of support from Youth Villages, the children came home safely. Mrs. Bryson believes this tumultuous time in their lives helped shape them into a stronger family.
“Our relationship with our kids is so much better now, and I am really grateful for everything that happened as horrible as it was,” Terra said. “Sometimes you lose sight of how important and how good things are, but we’ll never take it for granted ever again.”
She has advice for other parents facing these challenges.
“Do not give up. It feels impossible, but it’s not,” she said. “You have to love your kids enough to do whatever you have to do. Don’t fight the process, and use the support you’re give. For us there was no choice. No option. We were getting our kids back. Period.”
Cami and her brothers are with their mom at home, enjoying time at the ballpark and other summertime fun. We believe