Rose McMurray is a unique success story – one that nobody saw coming, and yet so many helped to create.
Rose was raised by two high-functioning addicts in a normal home in California. To bystanders, her childhood looked normal. Both parents held down jobs and raised four beautiful children. But high-functioning addiction comes with many dangers. Rose watched both her parents abuse drugs and alcohol, while leaving the children to take care of themselves. Seeing her parents use drugs to cope with emotions, Rose grew up thinking that this was the way to handle the everyday stresses of life. As a result, Rose began drinking alcohol at age nine, and began abusing drugs at age twelve, often in the company of her parents.
Fast forward to 2015: Rose was “clean” for a year and had regained custody of her two young children, but she had no car, no job, no high school degree and no family support. “I was overwhelmed, like I was looking up from the bottom of a well.” So she walked into Placer County’s Children System of Care (CSOC) and asked for help. They provided the first step, helping her acquire housing at New Leaf Transitional Housing in Auburn.
While staying at New Leaf, Rose met a woman who was volunteering as a “Family Mentor”. Amazed by the caring and support the volunteer provided to the other women in her house, Rose reached out to Child Advocates of Placer County and was assigned her own Family Mentor.
The Placer Family Mentor program grew out of the Child Advocates Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, which trains community volunteers to become CASA’s for foster youth. Over 50 of these dedicated volunteers have undergone additional training to become mentors for parents like Rose who are striving to successfully rebuild their lives and their families.
Rose’s Family Mentor was Roseville resident Jane Miller. “She seemed like she had lost all hope of trying to get her life back along with her children…but our personalities meshed and I knew we could work together to meet her goals and get her life back.” Jane said.
For the first time Rose felt things were turning around, that she was starting to climb out of the well, and then there was a fire at New Leaf Transitional Housing and she lost nearly all her possessions. Rose had gone through so much and the fire at her residence was a big roadblock. But she and Jane continued to meet every week to sort through the obstacles.
“I was very impressed by the support from the community Rose had at her team meetings for her family and the open mindedness and willingness she had to succeed.” Said Roger DelPapa, Placer County Children’s System of Care Case Supervisor. “It was nice to see the parent driving the process instead of the system and refreshing to see Rose place the needs of her children in front of the needs for herself.”
Today, Rose has built a new life for herself and her children. But, as she says, “I could never have done it alone.” Her foundation was built on the love and compassion from a sobriety sponsor at Freedom Church in Auburn. It is built on the therapy and guidance she received from therapists at Kids First, on the wonderful teachers at Sprouts Trauma Preschool which helped her children transition into mainstream school, and on the Assistance League of Auburn and Auburn Kiwanis, which helped her find and furnish her own apartment. Her foundation is built on CalWorks, which gave her a shot at a real job, and the support of the pastor at Freedom Church who helped her buy a car so that she could get to work. It is built on the registrar at Sierra College who is helping her start the previously unimaginable journey of going to college.
And mostly, her foundation is built on the love and support of a volunteer named Jane, her Family Mentor from Child Advocates of Placer County, who stood by her side and helped her navigate the seemingly impossible obstacles that lay before her, reminding her all along the way the that her dreams were accessible as long as she didn’t give up.
Today Rose is employed as an AmeriCorps member at Child Advocates, where she helps manage Family Mentor cases by engaging the distraught women and men who are referred to the Family Mentor program.
For most of us, it would have been easy to give up on someone like Rose and to some extent; many of these people have given up on themselves. But when Rose meets them, she can look them in the eye, see the spark, however dim, and say to them “I was once where you are today. If you wish it, you can have a new life tomorrow. Let us help you.”
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Family Mentor or Court Appointed Special Advocate for others in your community, visit Child Advocates of Placer County at www.casaplacer.org, 530-887-1006, or [email protected].