As a child, Liz struggled to find a place to feel like she belonged. She was removed from her parents’ home at the age of eight and grew up in the foster care system. She ran away from every foster home they placed her in because she felt no one cared enough to listen to what she needed. It would be years before she finally had a family to call her own.

When Liz was 23 years old, she met Justin, with whom she fell in love and later married. A couple years later, she gave birth to her first child, a boy whom they named Giovany. Liz and Justin eventually had two more children, a boy named Andres and a girl they named Eloise. They lived together harmoniously with their children until Liz reconnected with her biological family.

At first, Liz felt elated to build relationships with her parents and siblings. It seemed like they had changed for the better and wanted to get to know her. Liz yearned for their love and validation, but did not realize they were still trying to control her.

She had two biological sisters. When they began trying to control Giovany, Liz knew something had to change. Giovany gave her the strength to stand up for herself and to set boundaries with her family.

However, Liz’s biological family became angry with her for standing up to them. In March of 2020, her sisters falsely reported Liz to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), claiming Liz was addicted to prescription pain medication and spent her days sleeping instead of taking care of her children. They also falsely claimed Justin was verbally and emotionally abusive to their children.

DHHS swiftly reacted to these allegations and visited the Liz and Justin in their home a few days later. After interviewing the family members, DHHS felt her youngest, Eloise, who was only 18 months old, was not being cared for properly. They removed her from her home and placed her in foster care.

Liz and Justin were beyond distraught and terrified. How could someone break up their family, and during the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic?

Liz knew all too well the struggles of growing up in the foster care system. She did not want the same fate for Eloise. Liz and Justin wanted their daughter back and to have their family be whole again.

 Their case worker referred Liz and Justin to the In-Home Services program at Heartland Family Service, and they reached out to them the next day. They were immediately greeted with kindness and compassion. The caring In-Home Services team met with Liz and Justin virtually, since quarantine procedures were already in place due to the pandemic.

After speaking with Liz and Justin, it became clear they were loving parents who cared deeply for their children and took great care of them. The compassionate employees worked to help Liz and Justin break the cycles of barriers and helped them find options when they felt they had none. So Liz and her family can.

Two weeks later, Liz and Justin went to a court hearing to fight for Eloise. The In-Home Services employees advocated heavily for Liz and Justin, as did Liz’s physicians. The judge quickly determined they had suffered an unfortunate and false turn of events. The system had failed them. He awarded immediate and full custody of Eloise to them.

Liz was so excited to carry Eloise out of the courtroom in her arms. Since receiving full custody of Eloise, Liz has cut her biological family out of her family’s lives. They have returned to being happy and harmonious, despite the overwhelming odds they once faced.

Now, Liz can.

Can what? Can anything. The answer is up to her.