Alexis’s Story: ‘I Want to Break My Family’s Pattern’

By Alexis, Participant in Graduation Success

I didn’t really have a childhood. I grew up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood in a house full of drug addicts coming and going at all hours.

As long as I can remember there has been some kind of addiction in my family. My biological mom is addicted to heroin, and her friends would walk into my room thinking it was the door to the bathroom or outside. I wasn’t allowed to lock the door.

My mom would spend all day in bed and just color. She didn’t take care of herself, so she couldn’t take care of my siblings and me. I was always worried about when and if we’d eat. There wasn’t any food in the house, and when there was, it wouldn’t last long.

I remember being scared and depressed. I couldn’t sleep. I looked out for my little sister, Savannah, which meant I didn’t go to school very often. It wasn’t safe to leave her alone there. When I did show up for class, my friends would applaud because it was so rare for me to be in school.

CPS was called a couple of times, but somehow my mom would get a heads-up and put on a good act. She’d kick all the people out, clean the house and make us look presentable. I would get so happy when they came, hoping I would be rescued from my reality. Each time the social worker would be fooled, and I’d be crushed.

When I used to fight with my mom, I would run away to a friend’s house. That’s how I knew that how we lived wasn’t normal. Even if they were poor, they had each other and were close—but that wasn’t what my family was like. I never really saw her as a mom but more like a teenager. My mom didn’t read to me or play with me.

I can see what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone into foster care. I would have been pregnant as a teenager, addicted to drugs or shot by gang members. I want to break my family’s pattern.

When I was 13, I confronted my mom telling her I didn’t like her friends. She said if I didn’t like them, I could leave so I called my grandma in Idaho. My grandparents drove out to get me and I spent a few months in the safety of their home. For the first time in my life, I had my own bedroom, bathroom and even got paid for doing chores. My grandma wanted to spend time with me. She’d take me shopping or we’d make jewelry together. I got to spend time with the whole family—aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a great summer.

I had to come back because my mom wouldn’t sign over her parental rights so I could enroll in school there. Back in Washington, I would spend a lot of time at my best friend Ashley’s house. I spent so much time there that Ashley’s mom Jennifer suggested I just move in. My whole life, all I wanted was a mom—someone to keep me safe, look out for me and show me how to grow into a woman. I’m so thankful that I found that in Jennifer. She officially adopted my little sister and me on September 13, 2019.

When I met Danielle, my Treehouse Education Specialist, I thought she’d be just another social worker. Danielle is like a big sister and a role model to me. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. We make plans and figure it out together.

Treehouse has been a financial support which has been a big help. They’ve paid for my laptop, senior package, choir expenses and given me gift cards so I could buy new clothes.

I am proud to say I just graduated from Mt Tahoma High School as the first in my biological family to earn a high school diploma. I will be attending Eastern Washington University in the fall.

I want to do something that helps kids who are experiencing the foster care system. Working with Danielle has inspired me to someday work at Treehouse as an Education Specialist. I want to help kids that think they can’t do anything or can’t make it so they feel confident and believe they can do anything—like Danielle has done for me.

Every kid deserves to be proud of themselves, graduate high school and have hope for the future.

Interested in supporting Treehouse and youth in foster care? Make a gift at treehouseforkids.org/donate.

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About the Author

Alexis is a participant in Treehouse’s Graduation Success program. She just graduated from Mt Tahoma High School as the first in her biological family to earn a high school diploma. She will be attending Eastern Washington University in the fall.

Comment (1)


July 15, 2020

Congratulations of your graduation, Alexis! Thank you for sharing your story. You are strong, smart and successful. You are already making a positive impact on this world with your fearlessness to speak out and be an advocate for others. Your point “Every kid deserves to be proud of themselves, graduate high school and have hope for the future.” was spot on. I wish you the best of luck on your college journey and beyond!!!


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