With help from Diakon and community, mother never gives up ... and transforms her life

Eastern Pennsylvania Thursday December 19, 2019

Many times during the last 17 years, “Kayla” had felt like giving up.

Facing allegations of drug abuse and neglect, she had lost custody of her children when her county’s children and youth service intervened. She worked with Diakon’s Family Reunification and Preservation services several times to try to bring her family back together, but had not been able to achieve the necessary successes.

Then, in late 2017, she was again referred to Diakon with a goal of reunifying with her children.

And, this time, she had stayed clean from drugs and alcohol, achieving more than a year of sobriety. Moreover, she was working full-time and renting an apartment. 

To some, the challenges ahead may have seemed daunting. Her daughter has a severe medical condition, a son faces behavioral challenges while two other sons had been physically abused by their father.

But Kayla's determination to make a home and create a life for her children was stronger than any of these challenges. With support from her county, the Diakon programs and her Diakon case manager, Lisa Barnelli, Kayla found success. She has been reunified with three of her children and the family flourishes.

While she has tried repeatedly to reunite with the fourth child, a son, foster care was determined to be the best option for him at this time. 

“Kayla has been clean and sober for more than three years, works full-time, keeps a clean home and demonstrates excellent parenting skills,” Lisa says. “All three children continue to thrive. They attend school regularly, do their homework right after school, are learning to take responsibility in the home by doing chores and are placing trust in their mother.”

Most miraculously though, Barnelli explains, is that the young daughter is taking her first steps with the help of a specially made walker obtained from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Since Kayla was told that [her daughter] would most likely never walk, this accomplishment was an exceptionally emotional and significant one,” she says. “All of these achievements, for both mother and children, were made possible by her hard work and the assistance of Diakon and the county children and youth agency. This is a perfect example of how everyone working together can truly improve a family’s life!”


Diakon’s Family Preservation and Reunification services are offered in Bucks, Delaware, Northampton and Lehigh counties of Pennsylvania. 

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