Incarceration has an exponential effect on the structure of the family. The children of incarcerated parents have to make the choice daily to survive and thrive instead of giving into hopelessness. Faith and forgiveness allowed the four Trawick kids—Kindra, Kerell, Kalon and Kendle—to emerge on triumphant from a desperate situation.
Since Kindra was 10 years old, her mother has struggled with addiction. Kindra, her mother and her three brothers lived with Kindra’s grandmother. The influence of Kindra’s grandmother helped equip Kindra with the tenacity she would need when she found herself alone, responsible for her three younger brothers. Kindra’s grandmother died in January. Her mother was incarcerated on drug related charges less than a month later.
After the death of her grandmother and the incarceration of her mother, Kindra had one more life-altering surprise in store. She went with her 17 year old brother to court for a juvenile appeal. When they got there, they found that court had been cancelled but the probation office had a copy of the police report from the newspaper showing that their mother was in jail. They also had the obituary from the newspaper showing that their grandmother had passed away. DHR was there waiting to question Kindra about the custody of her little brothers. As the questions were sprung on her, the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on 19-year-old Kindra.
“My whole life changed in 30 minutes,” she says. “I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this all happened in one day. I felt like I was in a dream.”
Kindra was given 15 minutes to go pick up her brothers—one from school and one from the baby sitter—and go to court that day or be found in contempt. She stood before the judge as her own attorney and pled her case. She was determined to keep her family together.
“I told the judge I just lost my grandmother, my mom just went to jail. I’ve lost everything and everyone,” she says. “I can’t let them take my brothers. Others have kids at 19 and get help. Please help me.”
Kindra was awarded physical custody of her bothers and DHR had custody. Kindra was required to take parenting classes. She received no TANF or food stamps for the first month. The only assistance she received was a few Wal Mart vouchers. Kindra worked part time at Dollar General. She only received $600 from her grandmother’s estate. When she signed the lease on a place for them to live, she found that she was already in the hole for $1,000 due to her mother not paying previous months’ rent. After six months, they were evicted.
“I had to choose between rent and groceries and I could never catch up,” Kindra says. “The hardest part was being strong for them. I couldn’t have weak moments. I had to be protective even though I didn’t feel protected myself. I was in shock and in debt. I had to make decisions. Some guidance or mentoring would have helped.”
Life was hard for the Trawick kids. Kindra found herself having to act as mother, sister and friend. At first, they didn’t want to mind their sister. But, they all made it to school with no major problems.
“Kalen’s classmates were very nice to him and he was ok,” Kindra says. “Kendle went to daycare, and his teacher always gave him biscuits and syrup, his favorite.”
After the eviction, Kindra, Kalon and Kendle moved in with Kindra’s best friend’s mom and her three kids into a three bedroom house. Despite the close quarters, It was like one big family. Everyone took turns taking care of Kendle. But this arrangement only lasted for five months. DHR intervened to say that they couldn’t live in a house with that many people. Kindra’s mother was in and out of prison during this time and was only allowed to see the kids under supervision. When she was caught defying this court order, Kindra lost physical custody and and another friends’ mother got physical custody of the boys. Fortunately, Kindra and her brothers were able to see each other all the time. Eventually, Kindra’s aunt filed for custody of her Kendle and Kalon moved to New Jersey to live with her. Kendle was five at the time and told Kindra that he didn’t want to go. He wanted to stay with her.
“That was when I finally broke down,” Kindra says.
Rather than succumb to the darkness of their circumstances, the Trawick kids chose to thrive. Today, Kalon is in college at Georgian Court University, studying criminal justice. He loves sports and cooking. Kendle is in the sixth grade in New Jersey. He makes good grades and is close to his cousins who live nearby. Kerell lives in Dothan, works for a moving company and is father to one son. Kindra’s mom is out of prison, has gone through rehab and is doing well. She is reestablishing relationships with her children.
“She loves them to death,” Kindra says. “We are being as supportive as possible. We are forgiving.”
In 2011, Kindra took Healthy You’s Healthy Marriage class. She was the only single person to attend that class. It was there that she realized she wanted to do the kind of work done at Healthy You. Kindra now serves as night manager for Healthy You’s transitional home, Genesis II.
“I wanted to learn how to get along better with people,” Kindra says. “This is my dream job. I will have the amazing opportunity to work with women like my mother. it will be amazing to see relationships grow and manifest.”
Kindra believes that with the proper support, women will renew their relationships with their families and stay out of jail.
“It’s one thing to help them. It’s another thing to understand what families have gone through and the low self esteem of the women,” Kindra says. “I want to let them know their kids still need them. This is the first and most important step of their lives. I take the responsibility very seriously. I’m not here to make a dollar. I’m here to make a difference.”