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Transcending Foster Care and TDCJ

Veronica Lockett and kids

An update effective 9/9/2019

INTRODUCTION:

My name is Veronica Lockett. I am a 37-year-old native of Austin, Texas and the mother of a happy, healthy, beautiful fourteen-year-old daughter, Raney, and seven-year-old son, Ryan. I have acquired both positive and negative experiences from my childhood in the Texas foster care system. I continue to overcome the effects of past abuse and neglect as I aspire to achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency. I hold a Bachelor and Master’s in Social Work from Texas State University. While my license is expired, I practiced as licensed social worker with child victims of human trafficking.

Most recently, I graduated from UNT Dallas College of Law in Dallas, Texas. This summer completed two internships, one at the public defender’s office and the other in federal court. Currently, I am awaiting permission to sit for the Texas bar exam; in the meantime, I am studying for the exam. In spite of all these wonderful things, a hurdle I must continually overcome is the stigma of being a convicted felon.

TESTIMONY (originally written for the House Corrrections Committee)

I was nine when placed in the Texas foster care system. My mother, who abused drugs and alcohol, as well as her children, later went to prison. After ten years in foster care, I left with a bag full of clothes, a high school diploma, a bus pass, and a job making $5.25 per hour. The housing plan at the college where I was first accepted had fallen through. I did not have another plan. I spent a year couch surfing, in emergency shelters, and a transition center. I enrolled at the local community college; however, I slowly stopped attending class because my housing needs were not met. By the end of the semester I had dropped all but one class. My average in the course, one that I excelled in during high school, was a letter grade D.

Eventually, life seemed to improve. I was accepted into another university. Soon after, I began dating a young man who would turn out to be the most violent creature I had ever met. Before I realized it, I was in a relationship I swore I would never involve myself. I had witnessed my mother’s abuse from every boyfriend she dated. I never wanted to be anything like her. Little did I know, this violent relationship would become one of the reason I lose my dignity, hope, freedom, and sentenced to serve two years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system (TDCJ) in a cubicle next to my mother.

My mother’s rights were terminated without my consent and my younger siblings were adopted out like slaves during the trade. No one ever asked me if I wanted to see my mother again. No one ever asked me if I wanted to visit my mother in prison. I advocated for the right to visit my mother in prison. When someone honored my request, I was only allowed to visit my mother one time.

I still wonder to this day if I purposely wrote myself a round trip ticket to TDCJ. When I made it to classification at Woodman State Jail, my first question was, “Can I go to Hobby with my mother?” Again, I was denied access to her. So, I acted out in the worst way to get to Hobby. I wrote the Warden over the Gatesville unit several letters requesting assignment to the same unit as my mother or at least that I be allowed to visit with her. Letter after letter I received no response. One day my mother showed up on the Terrace unit.

Alas, the moment I had awaited! I laid eyes on my mother, and she was alright. I hugged my mother for the first time in years! I had never seen her sober. I remember thinking “I could get all my questions answered and see her face while she talks to me. She can be honest with me because there are no social workers watching us and making notes.” I needed to see if she was actually a changed woman. I remember asking her a series of questions, “What happened to you? Did you not love me? Why could I not go back home? What kind of life kept you in the streets and away from your children? Why did my siblings and I have to grow up in separate homes?” I needed closure. Millions of children who experience similar outcomes probably feel the same way. Was it coincidental that I went to prison? I do not know. My mother was taken away and my questions were never answered.

Former fosters, like myself, generally leave fostercare and return to their birth parents. When I left fostercare my birth mother was in prison. Today, she is free. My siblings and I talk to her every day, despite her prior actions. I have driven to Edinburg, where she lives in a halfway house. Is it coincidence that I went to prison or intentional? I do not know. I have a sister who was charged with aggravated robbery. Do you see a pattern? Were we all trying to get that “quality time” with our mother?

In closing, I would like to thank you in advance for the time and consideration you are giving to incarcerated women and mothers. Should you have any questions or unanswered concerns, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at vyv1037@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

 Veronica Lockett, MSW

Juris Doctor, 2019

 

RECOMMENDATION:

Require programs that help strengthen connections between parents (women) and children affected by substance abuse and incarceration.

Strengthening Relationships Programs

  • CenterForce, San Rafeal, CA

Website: http://www.centerforce.org/programs/

  • Pittsburg Child Guidance Foundation, Pittsburg, PA

Website: http://foundationcenter.org/grantmaker/childguidance/initiative.htm

  • Friends Outside in Santa Clara County, CA

Website: http://www.friendsoutsideinscc.org/program_jail.html

  • California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Female Offender Program

Website: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Divisions_Boards/Adult_Operations/FOPS/Unit_and_Program_Descriptions.html

 

Substance Abuse Programs and Curriculums

  • Celebrating Families Curriculum

Website: http://preventionpartnership.us/families.htm

  • Philadelphia Department of Human Services-Enhanced Services for Children of Women in Substance Abuse Treatment

Website: http://dhs.phila.gov/intranet/pgintrahome_pub.nsf/Content/Prevention+-+Intensive+Services+-+Enhanced

 

Experts in the Field

  • Alicia Lieberman, PhD, UCSF Department of Psychiatry & Child Trauma Research Project, San Francisco General Hospital
  • Nell Bernstein, San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership
  • Ann Adalist-Estrin, National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated, Jenkintown, PA

 

RESOURCE:

Strengthening Connections between parents and children affected by substance abuse, HIV and Incarceration

WEBSITE: http://aia.berkeley.edu/media/sc_conference/sc_booklet.pdf

 

Veronica Lockett
Sep 1st, 2019
About "Peer Voices" - We believe that true systems change can only come from being informed and led by peers. This space brings the voices of lived experience such as TJP's own Peer Policy Fellow Kevin Garrett and other peers who are passionate about systemic change in the justice and mental health system. In speaking their truth and telling their stories, they provide courage, hope and support to each and every one of us engaged in this difficult work.

Category: Peer Voices | Tags: ,

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