It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. Amanda is rounding up her three children – Brenna, 13, Reese, 11, and Kylee, 9 – so she can get them to school. She’s packing lunches and finding lost shoes and checking the day’s calendar. It’s a busy day, but a typical one – work, then an evening jam-packed with piano lessons, sports practices, grocery shopping, and homework.
From the outside, Amanda’s life looks perfectly normal.
From the outside, you might never guess that three years ago, Amanda and her husband, Nate, had lost custody of their children and were fighting a grueling battle with substance use.
Nate and Amanda had each struggled with addiction for decades. They thought they had overcome their addiction when the kids were born but shortly after, they fell back into old habits. The kids were removed from their childhood home and placed in foster care, and Amanda felt hopeless. At one point, she was ready to give up her parental rights.
“There was a lot of guilt, there was a lot of resentment that pushed us deeper into our addiction,” Nate says. “When the kids were removed from our home, it was a hopeless feeling. We were scared, we were angry, we didn’t know which direction to go.”
When the couple was referred to Lutheran Services in Iowa’s Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency Services, Amanda didn’t know if it would make a difference. But now, she says her family wouldn’t be where they are without the support of their LSI team.
Across Iowa, LSI’s Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency Services provide intensive support designed to strengthen families and prevent children from being removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. LSI workers also help parents like Nate and Amanda build the skills they need to safely reunify their families.
The family’s LSI worker, Katie, began meeting with Nate and Amanda regularly to help address their substance use. She connected them with parenting and sobriety resources, and drove their three children to have regular visits with their parents.
At first, the journey was a difficult one. Amanda relapsed, and she was filled with dread when she picked up the phone to call Katie and tell her what had happened. Amanda expected Katie to be disappointed or give up on her. That’s what many other people had done before. But to Amanda’s surprise, Katie encouraged her and told her not to give up. Throughout the weeks and months after, Katie stood by Amanda’s side, checking in regularly to make sure she was safe and getting the help she needed.
“My first assumption was that Katie might not care deeply about me or my family. I thought she might just be there because it was her job,” Amanda says. “But Katie truly supported me as a parent, and I will always be really thankful for that.”
For the first time, Amanda knew someone believed in her. Someone had faith in her ability to change, and that made Amanda have faith in herself, too.
While Nate and Amanda had tried to beat their addiction in the past, they’d never been so determined: this was it. It was time to turn their lives around and fight for their family. With encouragement from Katie, Nate and Amanda focused all of their time and energy on getting sober and bringing their children home.
Recently, Nate and Amanda celebrated three years of sobriety. Their hard work paid off, and all three of their children have returned home. While they have graduated out of LSI’s services, Nate and Amanda still keep in touch with Katie to share family updates.
“I’m proud of the parent I am today,” Nate says. “I didn’t think I was capable of that, and LSI was a key part of our family reuniting. It’s one of the big reasons why we are where we are today.”
And they aren’t stopping there. With LSI’s encouragement, Amanda turned her life around. Now, she is giving back to more parents in her community in the same way. She collaborates with other organizations like LSI to support families struggling with substance use and in need of the same care and empowerment she received.
“I’m grateful that Katie and LSI were a part of our lives. They weren’t there to hinder, they were there to help,” Amanda says. “I feel accomplished, and I feel really good about where my family is at in our lives. Now I’m just happy to help other families achieve their goals and realize they are not alone.”
See more of Nate and Amanda’s story on the LSI YouTube channel.