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Melissa Can

In her early teenage years, Melissa started hanging out with the wrong crowd, which resulted in her smoking marijuana and drinking. That turned into doing meth. She ended up in a group home, but that didn’t last long.

Melissa ran away and eventually ended up at a girls youth rehabilitation center. After her release, she attended college and had a full time job. That changed at the age of 20 when Melissa reverted back to her old ways and stole a car. She was sentenced to a felony and ended up in jail. Upon her release, the cycle of drug use continued.

At age 34, Melissa had five children ages 19 months to age 11. She was living with the father of her two youngest children and over the next four years it was a vicious cycle of using drugs, sobriety, being evicted, and then homeless.

Melissa’s family had been helping her over the years but decided they would no longer enable or help her. They did agree to care for her children while she waited to get into Heartland Family Service Family Works in Nebraska.

Family Works is a long-term residential substance abuse and mental health service in Iowa and Nebraska for women with children. It preserves and strengthens the mother-child attachment while providing housing, treatment, therapy, and support for both the mother and children.

Melissa was placed within a month and was given an apartment large enough for herself and her children. Melissa says Family Works saved her life as she would not have gone to treatment without her children. She says the best part was the support and hope given by staff as they wanted her sobriety as much as she did.

Each service helped her in a specific way and all contributed to her success. Her older children worked with a child and family therapist to overcome the trauma they experienced, which contributed to helping make their family whole again.

Melissa graduated from Family Works six months later. The father of her two youngest children found treatment and they were re-united. She sought assistance through Family Works and Permanent Supportive Housing services to find a home for her family. Now she is doing well and living independently with her children and boyfriend.

Melissa wants to stay connected with Family Works and eventually get a job to help advocate for others in similar situations. Now, Melissa Can.

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While Heartland Family Service aims for this community of opportunity, using it to guide our plans and actions, we know that there will always be someone in need, and those needs are always evolving.

Our work, both on the individual and systemic level, is never done.

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