Children’s safety need to be the priority in cases where the court must decide

 

Mike Gonzales

I walk in and Mito is crying. So, I ask, “Mito, why are you upset?” He says, “No one cares.” But I say, “I care.”

I used to volunteer with “at risk” kids a few hours every Saturday. Some came from juvenile hall, others from foster homes.

I told Mito, “look, life is like a hand that you got dealt. You must work with what you have, and Mito, you have a good hand. You are young, smart, and healthy. There is a saying in an Eagles song that goes, “most people live their lives in chains never knowing they have the key.” So, work it.

There were usually about 15 kids there 15 to 17 years of age, and since I played college football, we would play football. I would teach them how to throw, catch and defend. It was fun for me.

If you are a foster child, by the time you are 15, you have been in about 10 different homes. On average, only 30 percent will graduate from high school, and by the time you are 25, 40 percent will be homeless and more than 20 percent will be in jail. Sad.

Why am I telling you this? Because three of my daughters and my grandson were headed in that direction. Luckily, the courts do the best they can for the children, and I found out firsthand.

Daughters, Ciarra and Brittany’s mother was a drug addict, Lauren’s mom was emotionally abusive and my grandson Gage’s mother was in an abusive relationship brought on by drug use.

Brittany is now sober. There were instances when the children would see their mother being physically abused. They would hide behind couches, sometime go hungry and were always scared. A horrible situation for any child. Lauren’s mother would yell at her while she was doing homework at 12 years old.

I always felt the truth would lead to what was right for the children. With the court, it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove, which can be very challenging.

What I experienced was incredibly amazing. The system works for the children. Social workers, CPS workers, mediators and the judges really care about the children.

I had CPS workers at my house at 9 p.m., had them go to the Central Valley for interviews, and the kids got their own attorney to ensure everything was on the up and up.

I eventually got custody of Ciarra, Brittany, Lauren and Gage.

Ciarra is now a nurse, Lauren is a high school teacher and coaches gymnastics, Brittany is a stay-at-home mother with a little girl and she is with a new man, Tyson, who helps me with the business. And Gage is living a happy, busy, normal life.

There is nothing more euphoric that living a day splashed with the laughter of children. I am very thankful that the system worked for me.

Oh, I ran into Mito recently. “Remember me, coach?” “Of course,” I said.

We sat down and reminisced, shed a few tears, and exchanged hugs.

He told me he never forgot what I told him that day many years ago. He’s now a plumber with a family of his own.

I always believed that once you brought a child into this world, you would take care of that child, but that’s not always the case. So, to all that parents who stepped up, I’m proud of you!


Mike Gonzales is a Morgan Hill resident and the owner of Mike Gonzales Window Washing.

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