Rebuilding Families - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

May 15, 2006 - Lufkin

Rebuilding Families

by Donna McCollum

When it's not safe for children to be with their own families the state often petitions the court to remove the children from their homes. More often than not the children remain in foster care or are adopted. That's not to say biological parents never get their children back.

Tonika Jones is catching up on reading to her two children, Makaylen, 6, and Anthony, 4. They've been with her for just a few weeks after spending months with foster parents. Jones recalled the day. "November 30th she came and an officer came and took them. It was painful, stressful. It was hard."

The children were removed when Child Protective Services discovered Tonika was allowing them to spend more time with their father than what the state allowed. The man, Tonika's husband was convicted of sexual abuse of a child. There were 61,000 victims of child abuse in Texas last year. Jones said, "I knew I was wrong for what I did to get them taken." Jones just did not believe the state would take her children.

Despite the horrific child abuse Tonika had been attempting to rebuild her marriage. The removal of her children was a wake up call to instead rebuild her family without an abuser. Tonika's mother, Lauruther Rhodes recognized change in her daughter immediately. "She has more self esteem about herself then before when she was married."

Jones said of herself, "I don't consider myself an unfit parent. I was always with them. I took care of them, I fed them. I combed their hair. I took care of them. I was never an unfit parent. I was not raised to be like that." With that in mind the separation was grueling. One hour visits every two weeks went by way too fast. Jones said, "Anthony got sad every time he couldn't come home and so i had to tell him he had to wait and just be patient." Mekaylen simply described the months as, "It was very, very sad."

Jones was determined to get her children back. She attended parenting classes and counseling. She got a job and an apartment. On May 3rd the kids were home.

In Texas only 39% of the children leaving the system in 2003 were reunified with their birthparents. So Tonika, Mekaylen and Anthony can consider themselves lucky that they're together once again.

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