I came from a home with an alcoholic parent so my life was very unstable and I never knew what to expect, I was either being badly mistreated or being sent away to live somewhere else. I was placed in one of Communities for People’s (CFP) staffed residential programs at the age of 15. CFP means opportunity to me, it is a place to grow. Other homes I have been in just want you to behave to make it easier on staff and not because you should behave.
Independent living skills were a primary focus of the program. I wish I paid more attention to the independent living books. I used to think they were so lame and that when I got older it would just come naturally. It didn’t and in fact, it was a lot of trial and error. When I paid attention I gained a lot, I am a first class grocery shopper thanks to my practice making lists and menus and shopping for the house. Going to group therapy with 15 or more girls who didn’t always get along taught me two huge life lessons: first, not to judge people you don’t know until you get to know them and secondly, you are not going to like everyone, but that is life. My husband laughs at me now and calls me the “lover of all people”!
Living at a CFP residence was the first time I saw unconditional love outside of my family. I pushed buttons and didn’t always do what I was supposed to, but I realized you don’t get tossed aside for bad behavior, I was held responsible for my actions, and I faced the consequences and did better next time. I really lucked out with the staff at the Bennington House. Hanna, Colleen and Diane taught me so many things that go deeper than I can ever explain. These women can take a lot of credit for the person I am today. I was shown love and taught what a real home is supposed to feel like. My mother never let me go anywhere or do normal teenage things. I was responsible for my young siblings but didn’t know what it was to be responsible for myself. The CFP staff showed me trust, safety and normalcy. Words can’t express what they have done for me. When I parent my kids I am able to reprimand them and love them at the same time. I definitely did not learn that from my mother. I think about them still to this day and my family and I are so appreciative they were in my life.
Since CFP I graduated high school earning myself 16 credits in one year trying to make up for all the credits lost from moving. I met my now husband, who I have been with for 8 years. I have a stepson and two beautiful little babies. I am very happy and I am living a full and peaceful life. I would be okay without CFP, but I would be missing many of the things about myself that make me proud of who I am.