A simple thing like giving her children choices when they want a snack has gone a long way for Kayla Fleury.
“It used to be, “You do what I say; I’m your mom!’ ” Kayla said. But through the help of SaintA case manager Krista Stauder and Kimberly Greenwald, a family engagement specialist, Kayla has learned a lot and brought a state of relative peace to her household.
It wasn’t always like that. Kayla has a daughter, Abigail, who is 5, and a son, Nathaniel, who is 7. In 2011, she was a 23-year-old single mother, living in a small bedroom at her parent’s house along with two young kids. She was working third shift and trying to grab some sleep whenever she could. Nate often was agitated; he would scream, high-pitched, very loudly. He would get violent and throw things and cut up his clothes.
Kayla couldn’t handle it, so she contacted child welfare and arranged for her cousin, who was a foster parent, to take her children. During that time, it was learned that Nate has ADHD.
By August of 2012, Kayla had moved to an apartment, secured a different job and was reunified with her children.
“I was trying the best I could to get my children back.”
Then one morning, the kids were fighting over the phone and Nate was kicking his sister. He hadn’t had his medication yet. Kayla bent down, and he spit in her face.
“I accidentally slapped him,” Kayla said. “And I pulled him toward me by the shoulders to try to calm him.” Perhaps that pull was harder than Kayla realized at the time.
Nate went to school and Kayla got a call. She was arrested in front of her daughter and spent the weekend in jail. She says Nate had told people his mother had choked him. Although she was humiliated at the time, Kayla now looks differently at the situation.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “All of this made me stronger as a person and a mother.”
Krista was assigned to the case and brought in Kimberly to use what is called the Active Parenting curriculum with Kayla.
“At first I just wanted to clear may name, so it was, ‘I’ll do whatever you say,’” Kayla said. “Then as time went on, I realized I could use this help. I realized, I’m single and doing this all by myself.”
“She was very resistant to services at first, but when we started working with her, she really reacted to it,” Kimberly said.
As an alternative to being charged, Kayla learned about parenting, anger management and had to do 20 hours of community service, which she actually enjoyed (working with a food drive).
Kimberly came to Kayla’s home, first twice then once a week, often bringing DVDs that illustrated parenting concepts and how to interact better with her kids. SaintA’s Family Engagement Program was new at the time, and Kayla was one of Kimberly’s first clients.
Kayla said that, with Kimberly’s help, she learned a lot about how to be a better mother. For instance, she learned the difference between punishment and discipline and how to build bonds with her children.
“I learned that when you discipline your kids and they don’t respond, you don’t get angry,” Kayla said. “You walk away and try to discipline them again later.”
And that thing about giving them choices, like snacks or what they want to wear or what they might like to do after dinner?
“I didn’t know about that,” Kayla said, “and it’s working out a lot better than I thought. It makes them happy, and it makes them feel a little more grown up.”
Nate now has a doctor who specializes in ADHD and Kayla is researching diets for him.
“It all turned out very well,” Krista said. “Now her troubles are normal parenting issues. “I’m very, very proud of her and very happy that she got to a point where she knows coping skills and parenting techniques.”
“I learned a lot, and the kids were happy to see them,” Kayla said about Krista and Kim. “I’m not as stressed or frustrated any more. I learned I have to take time for myself.
“I’d ask for help again. You can never have too much help!”