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Unstoppable Mom Does Whatever It Takes to Reunify With Her Son After Foster Care

Gabriella, an unstoppable mom, did whatever it took to reunify with her son after foster care. Now she empowers parents just like her with advocacy, mentorship and leadership through KVC.

From an early age, Gabriella struggled with her home life, grappling with drug use as a way to cope with a lack of acceptance and love from her family. For years, it seemed as though she was running into roadblock after roadblock, and nothing was improving. Things went from bad to worse when her baby was removed and placed into foster care. She had to find strength she didn’t know she had to reunify with him after foster care. And this wasn’t Gabriella’s first experience with foster care — as she herself was in foster care as a teen.

Little did Gabriella know that all of these experiences would eventually lead her down a path that she never would have expected: a path of resilience, restoration and ultimately, healing. Today, Gabriella works to empower others as she gives back through KVC. Learn more about Gabriella’s powerful story.

Searching for Stability and Belonging

As a young teen, disagreements with her mother about school, medication and sexual abuse she experienced by a young man her mom invited to live at the home led to Gabriella entering foster care. It was difficult to find foster parents willing to help — and once a foster family was found, Gabriella would quickly find out that it was not the home for her, and her situation went from bad to worse.

“Why doesn’t anyone want me?” she found herself thinking.

“It was the most abandoned and confused I’d ever felt.”

Without healthy adult guidance, Gabriella felt lost and alone, leading to her moving back in with her mother and beginning drug use, initiated by her mother, her brother and her boyfriend at the time. She eventually dropped out of school — all of this by the time she was 15 years old.

Determined to seize control of her life after a series of negative events in her early teenage years, Gabriella took charge by marrying the young man she had been living with, seeking emancipation from her mom. Two months later, she found herself pregnant. Unfortunately, upon discovering her pregnancy, the family she was staying with asked her to leave, forcing her to navigate the challenges – and joys – of pregnancy and motherhood without family support.

A few months later, Gabriella gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. While learning to care for her infant and herself, she also endured physical abuse from her husband. When her son was seven months old, she made the courageous decision to leave her abusive husband and filed for divorce. Now homeless, Gabriella stayed with coworkers as she worked towards rebuilding her life.

Coping with Heartbreak and Adversity

Gabriella’s resolve prevailed. She worked tirelessly to provide for herself and her baby, and she was determined to make it on her own. Working long hours and earning minimum wage was stressful, but she was doing her best to make ends meet for herself and her son. So when a friend invited her to a concert, Gabriella was excited for a fun night and a small respite. Gabriella arranged childcare for her son and looked forward to the evening. Sadly, what she hoped would be a relaxing evening quickly turned into a nightmare.

A few drinks in, and someone in the group offered Gabriella a blunt. She didn’t know this was no ordinary marijuana. It was laced with just about every substance you can think of, and because of this, she didn’t make it back to pick up her son that night.

When she woke up the next morning, her world was turned upside-down — yet again. Child Protective Services (CPS) was called, and they arrived a day later to remove her son from her home. Her son was then placed with a non-related kinship foster family because they believed Gabriella to be a drug addict and a danger to her son.

Reunifying With Her Son After Foster Care

Gabriella’s response was at first a hard fight, especially knowing that she wasn’t regularly using drugs at the time. “Anyone would react when their baby is getting taken away,” she recalls. But as time went on, she started to doubt herself and faced serious mental health struggles, including drug addiction.

“At the time, I was convinced I was a drug addict from what they were saying about me,” Gabriella recalls with sadness. “I spiraled after my son was taken, and it took a lot for me to forgive the system for what happened.”

More than two years after he was removed, Gabriella was finally, joyfully reunified with her then three-year-old little boy. But the reunification journey was a tumultuous one. Three case plans, numerous UAs (urinary analyses), consistent blood tests, five rehab stays, inpatient and outpatient mental health hospitals, and even probation. However, it was about this time that Gabriella met her current husband and love of her life, Noah.

“Noah is a godsend,” Gabriella says. “He put me on my feet and helped me get a leg up in the world.”

Watch Gabriella’s inspiring video of overcoming addiction and reunifying with her son after foster care here.

Today, Gabriella and Noah have two sons together, Camden and Milo. Their family enjoys taking trips to the art center for classes every fall. They also keep very busy with Camden’s theater and sports activities. Their latest achievement? Noah recently adopted Camden, legally signifying Noah as Camden’s father. “We’re all officially a family now!” Gabriella shares.

As Gabriella continues her journey towards healing, she’s realizing that her life experiences are a part of a bigger purpose. And this part of her journey has only just begun.

Mission to Support Others

Throughout her hardships, many people recommended that Gabriella give up her parental rights since she was so young. While the advice may have been delivered with good intentions, that wasn’t what she wanted. She made it her mission to do whatever she could to reunite with her son.

“When it comes to my family, I’m unstoppable,” Gabriella says. And her story illustrates exactly that.

KVC case workers saw Gabriella’s tenacity and dedication and they did everything legally possible to reunite Gabriella and her son for good. A KVC family support worker saw the progress she was making, and believed in her. This worker convinced the prosecutor at Gabriella’s parental rights termination hearing to change his mind.

“Trust your case workers,” Gabriella says. “They’re with you, not against you. The process only gets better by partnering and uniting together, instead of fighting against it.” 

Gabriella sharing her story of reunifying with her son after foster care at KVC Kansas' Resource Family Conference in 2023.

Gabriella sharing her story during the Parent Panel Discussion at KVC’s 2023 Resource Family Conference.

Since then, Gabriella has dedicated her life to her children — and her mission to inspire other parents in their journey through foster care and reunification. She’s involved in a number of programs and groups dedicated to strengthening families. She is partnered with the Annie E Casey Foundation and the SOUL project, a new legal permanency option designed by and for young people in foster care. She is also a member of KVC’s Engaging Parents Workgroup. Furthermore, she is a member representative for the family council, is a part of the PTA for her son’s school — and has now become a mentor for KVC’s Parent Mentorship Program.

Empowering Parents Through Mentorship

KVC Kansas is proud to offer this new mentorship program to help biological parents navigate the child welfare system. Parents can choose their mentor and then work with them to understand how the system works and how to reunify with their children after foster care. The program matches biological parents with someone who’s been in their shoes before. Their mentor will walk with them through their journey as a guiding light to reunification. “This is something I wished that I had when I was going through everything with my son,” Gabriella says.

“If you have that strong love for your kid, you’re going to do what it takes! That’s what it’s about,” Gabriella says.

“I used to be ashamed that my son had been in foster care. But today, I get to help others make changes in their lives.”

Sometimes life throws curveballs, and you need help finding your way through. The Parent Mentorship Program offers guidance, emotional support and advocacy to empower parents working to reunite their families. If your family is working with KVC Kansas, connect with a KVC mentor and find the tools and encouragement you need to succeed.

Find a Parent Mentor. Learn more about the mentors and sign up.