Defining her own future
Cherokee’s life began with struggles but she is determined not to let that define her future.
Cherokee was taken away from her mom and dad when she was 3 years old because of abuse and neglect. She and her siblings were moved from foster home to foster home and ended up with her aunt and uncle who also abused her. When this was discovered, Cherokee and her siblings were moved to her grandparents’ home. Within months, her grandpa started abusing her and the other kids in the family and blaming them for causing all of the family problems. It was not a healthy environment.
“There was always abuse here and there, but they told us that was the financial effect of adopting kids,” Cherokee said. By the age of seven Cherokee could sort receipts and balance a checkbook because her grandparents made her do that so she was aware of how much she and her siblings were “costing” them.
The three siblings had to be careful about what they said to people in school and in the community because if they said anything that caused a social worker to visit their house, the outcome would be bad. “Any time after a social worker left we were given a hell of a beating and were told we needed to be more careful about telling people anything,” Cherokee said.
Life with her grandparents was challenging. “When we were sick we were treated well so we faked all sorts of injuries,” Cherokee laughed. But at any other time, life was a challenge.
Faking injuries worked until Cherokee couldn’t contain the personal pain anymore and started self-harming. Child Protection Services sent her to a facility to get help. Eventually she found her way to Abbott House.
Cherokee came to Abbott House on February 2, 2012. She completed her program and moved into the newly opened Vyas Family Bridges Foster Home on December 20, 2013. Cherokee’s dream was to have a family and a home. Now, as one of the first children to live in the newly-built foster home, her dream was coming true. “Seeing I wasn’t alone and other people had bad stories too, and knowing that people would care for me even when I couldn’t control my behaviors really helped me,” Cherokee said.
All young people living in the foster home attend Mitchell High School and live like a family with a married couple. One of the expectations in the home is that young people find a job when they are of age to learn responsibilities, learn how to manage their money and continue their path to independence. Once employed, the youth are expected to save 70% and spend 30% of their earnings.
“At first I didn’t like the idea of saving all that money, but now I have a car and my own apartment,” Cherokee said. “The saving plan is a really good idea. I commonly think of what my life would be like if I didn’t have a car. I love being independent.”
Cherokee also had an adult from the community, known as a “Bridges Buddy,” who spent time with her nearly every week. Spending time with the “Buddie’s” family was really helpful for Cherokee. “She was a person I could talk to and confide in. I didn’t have to be afraid of telling about things or getting in trouble,” Cherokee said. “Best of all, her family accepted me as a member of their family.”
Cherokee started living in the Bridges Independent Living apartments on May 9th, 2018 and was officially dismissed from Abbott House on May 21, 2018. Now she works fulltime and has become a fulltime student at Mitchell Technical Institute studying human services.
I’m not going to let my past define me like it used to,” Cherokee said. “That is not who I am today.”