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Put your children first

By Susan Schleich-Broncheau

Kamiah Community Partners Coalition 

     I would like to start by telling you a little bit of who I am and where I came from. I was born and raised in Oregon. I am adopted, seventh child of eight. I am the mother of eight plus two. I have been sober 14 years now.

     In January of 2005 I moved here to Kamiah from Portland, Ore. I married and have been working for this community ever since. I have recently been given the opportunity to work for Kamiah Community Partners Coalition to help promote positive changes in the lives of children and their families. I truly believe that since I have been sober, I have been given great opportunities and have had incredible and wonderful things happening in my life. It has been a positive and huge learning experience so far, for sure.

     In most of the work I have done in the past, it seems I have always worked for one common goal: to help support children and their families to get to a better healthier place. Sometimes in doing this type of work it’s not always pretty. I won’t even begin to tell you how many children across Indian country are directly affected by someone they know, or a family member, whether it be an aunt or uncle, a grandmother or grandfather, or even a neighbor, by the influence of alcohol/drugs.

     I can tell you from my own experiences in my own life that from the first time I started drinking, my child (ren) became second. I had a child starting in my late teens, and never would have thought this of myself, but in fact later on, the evidence was there. I thought I could just leave my child with my mother all the time, so I could go and party.

     Over the next day or two my parenting consisted of attempting to function while throwing up as my head pounded furiously. My child did not get the best care she could have. Her love was on an agenda, whenever I had time to show it.

     After losing her to her father and having them move to Louisiana while I was putting myself through inpatient treatment was the hardest thing I had to do. She was 11 years old. At age 13, and 15, we spent the summers together, hashing out how much I had ruined her life and how much she hated me for it.

     All I could do was listen because it was all true. All I could do was show her by staying sober that I was truly sorry. That was my amends. It took her years, if not still for her to trust and believe in me. I would never want to hurt my child (ren) in this way again. I would not wish this experience or any in its similarity on any child and/or parent.  

     In working for Northwest Indian Tribes, in juvenile dependency cases as well as Native adults and their children in the same treatment facilities I went through myself, NARA NW Inc., it all boils down to the same issues of alcohol/drug involvement.

     Although adults have the right to make their own choices and decisions about drinking, especially at the legal age of 21, and/or substance abuse, I would just ask that the child (ren) be considered.

     In closing, it has been very hard and yet, rewarding to do this for myself, as well as help other people to get clean and sober. That is why I wanted to work for KCPC, to continue to help assist children and families towards substance prevention, to hope for a healthy community for children to grow and thrive in.

     I thank you for your time and consideration.    


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