Jasmine’s Story began with a childhood that was marked by instability.
She lived with her mom until she was five years old, then with her dad for a year, then with an aunt for two years. While she did move back with her mom permanently at age eight, Jasmine’s mom struggled with gambling and was not often present and attentive in her life. When Jasmine was fourteen years old, she left to live with her boyfriend and his family.
Jasmine’s boyfriend became physically violent, and she realized that her situation was unhealthy and unsafe. However, by the time she knew she needed out, her mom had moved out of state, her older sister was living in Tennessee, and she had no other family nearby to help. When she was 16, she made arrangements to move to Tennessee with her sister, where she stayed for a few months before moving to Washington with her mom.
Jasmine was 18 years old, when she became pregnant with her first child. Her mom wanted her to choose between a relationship with her or the father of her baby, and Jasmine moved out to live with her baby’s dad and his parents. A month later, they got their own apartment. For about a year, they stayed in one place but were later evicted when her boyfriend lost his job. The two then moved to Minnesota to live with his grandparents.
During that time, Jasmine found out that her baby’s father had been in a relationship with another woman and had another baby just a month older than hers. For a while, she continued to live with him and his grandparents, and they were co-parenting, but their relationship didn’t last.
Jasmine was struggling with depression, stress, and anger. She began abusing alcohol and became addicted to drugs. At one point, she ended up in jail for a few days. She also started a long distance relationship with the brother of one of her friends, who lived out of state. After a weekend visit, she returned and later found out she was pregnant. Jasmine made the difficult decision to leave her daughter in Minnesota with the baby’s father and grandparents. She didn’t want to leave her daughter, but she felt it was a better and more stable place for her.
She returned to Washington, where she hoped to have some family support during her pregnancy. When she was eighteen weeks pregnant, DSHS referred her to Step By Step for support.
Linsey, Jasmine’s assigned Step By Step case manager, said that her first visit lasted almost two hours. She said that Jasmine was well spoken and very open during their first visit and every one since.
They talked a lot about Jasmine’s situation, her family history, and the many barriers she was facing to having a healthy pregnancy. Linsey praised her for starting prenatal care early. They talked about her mental health needs and how she was doing handling stress. Together, they brainstormed ways for her to increase her support system. They talked about nutrition. Linsey also discovered that she had not seen a dentist in over two years and referred her to one in the area that would accept her medical insurance.
Jasmine was able to live with a family member for the remainder of her pregnancy, and she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl she named Autumn. However, just a few weeks after her baby was born, she was forced to leave.
Now homeless, with a newborn baby, Jasmine couldn’t find a shelter that wasn’t full. She ended up in the ER waiting room of a nearby hospital. For a few days, she walked around the hospital during the day and then slept off and on in the Pharmacy area. No one asked why she was there. It was then that Jasmine realized that no one was truly there for her.
Jasmine called her Step By Step case manager, who told her that there had been a recent opening in the housing program and scheduled her for an interview. Step By Step arranged for a place for her to stay the night, and the next day she was accepted into housing and moved into an apartment with another young mom.
Jasmine had never finished High School, so she started a self-study GED program, and she got a job at Wal-Mart. It was a struggle for her to find reliable childcare for her baby, but she said that working was a good thing for her. She set goals to complete her GED, find her own apartment, and buy a car. She was determined to be able to provide financially for herself and her baby, and she wanted to work towards being able to have both of her daughters living with her.
Halfway through the housing program, Jasmine said she felt her mindset had started to change. She was still struggling with depression, but she was stronger, and she was doing better. When her roommate left for a holiday, she was alone and that was hard for her. But, Jasmine recognized that overall she had grown and matured a lot, and she was learning healthier ways to manage stress. At one point, she told Linsey that she had successfully opened a bank account, and that it was a big accomplishment for her. “I only have $7 in checking and $7 in savings,” she said, to which Linsey congratulated her and said “hey, that’s a start!”
Today, Jasmine is married, works full time, and has stable housing of her own. She has been drug free for over two years. She obtained shared custody of her oldest daughter and has established a healthy relationship with her first daughter’s father.
She recently gave birth to her third baby in June, a healthy baby boy named Julian. Jasmine says her husband and his family are wonderful and that she finally has a healthy, normal family. They threw her the first baby shower she has ever had, and they get together regularly to celebrate the kids’ birthdays, have family dinners, and to just spend time together.
“Before, I felt alone. Now, I feel complete. My husband and I dream to one day have our own house to make memories in. Our hope is that our kids grow up raised the right way, around family and friends.”
Jasmine says that she really appreciates all of the counseling she received from her Step By Step case manager, Linsey, and that they still keep in touch. She continues to be thankful for the Step By Step program. “They gave me shelter,” she says, and “they pushed me to want better.”
April - Maple Lawn Elementary School
This Spring, an ambitious and compassionate group of 4th and 5th graders from Maple Lawn Elementary School in Sumner held a diaper drive for our Step By Step babies. Mentored by Kathy Hayden from the Sumner Rotary, through a program she developed called Early Act, and led by their teacher, Jeanne Ossman, the students created posters and managed the logistics of a school-wide drive. They brought in over 4,400 diapers to help keep our babies dry and happy!
May - Linda Wakeley
Linda has been a regular volunteer at Step By Step, since July of 2016. Learning that a local nonprofit had purchased her beloved Van Lierop Bulb Farm, where she had shopped and photographed the gardens for many years, she had to check us out. As a retired occupational therapist for the Federal Way School District, she was drawn to our mission of helping moms and babies through maternity support. Invariably, she brings with her whatever we need most at the time. She brings diapers, binkies, treasures from her attic for our gift shop, and flowers to brighten up the pots in the garden. She says, “I enjoy the versatility of tasks and jobs I’m given, from office work, sorting donations, working in the flower beds, and occasionally rocking a baby. Most of all, I appreciate the warm and friendly staff and other volunteers.” Thank you, Linda! We appreciate you!
June - Gratitude House
On a beautiful June day, a delightful group of women, who live at the Gratitude House in Tacoma, came for an outing at the farm, along with their house director, Carol Newell, and volunteer mentors from the community. They enjoyed a picnic on the patio and then took up garden gloves and tools to help rid our flower beds of weeds. We love it when our volunteer family offers to weed! The outing was organized by Pam Rayburn, who volunteers with the home. The Gratitude House provides a structured, safe place to call home for women recovering from addictions. Thank you, ladies, for volunteering with us!