Natalie W.* was a beautiful, vivacious 12 year old. Yes, this is a true story and yes, she was 12 – not as uncommon as you might think. Her energy and kindness were contagious. In spite of her parents’ divorce 3 years earlier, she seemed happy during her weekend visits to her father’s house. She nurtured a kitten she found in the street and enjoyed playing with her baby brother, her half-brother from her mother’s remarriage. There were no signs that Natalie would be difficult for her parents, until the day that she didn’t come home after school and was brought to the door late that night by a police officer, intoxicated and aggressive. The first time it was pot, the second time alcohol, and when she was finally arrested, it was hydrocodone.
Natalie’s father didn’t know how to handle her. He tried to stop her from sneaking out by putting bars on her windows. Although he considered it, he couldn’t bring himself to send her to a detoxification boot camp. Unfortunately, the state took over and Natalie ended up in prison with DWI and illegal drug possession convictions. Now 22, Natalie lives with her boyfriend and her baby daughter in a trailer. She suffers from bipolar disorder and can’t hold a job. Medications that she takes to control her anxiety and depression have caused her to gain 100 pounds which doesn’t sit well on her petite 5’1” frame. (more…)