A Mother Overcomes Addiction Reunites with Family

A Mother Overcomes Addiction Reunites with Family
Posted by FoM on December 26, 1999 at 12:19:01 PT
By Gary Rotstein, Post-Gazette Staff Writer 
Source: Post-Gazette 
Eula Mae Broughton gathered her five children this weekend to take them to church, give them presents, serve them a special ham dinner and shower them with holiday hugs.In other words, she did what millions of other moms have done across America, and that is what makes this Christmas so special for her.
The Allentown woman, 35, has rebounded from crack cocaine addiction, from arrests and jail time, from losing her children to foster care placement by Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families. And it all began with a chance meeting on Sept. 3, 1997, when she delivered her last child in a stranger's subcompact car.The motorist was the Rev. Mike Gestrich of Hilltop Baptist Church in Banksville. The story of their encounter on a dark Hazelwood street has appeared before. Broughton flagged down the first passing vehicle as she began having labor pains blocks from where she lived at the time. No one was around to assist.Gestrich offered to drive her to the hospital to give birth. She accepted, but her impatient baby wouldn't cooperate.While Gestrich and his two teen-age sons went briefly to her home to gather her belongings, Broughton's fifth child came into the world as she reclined in the front passenger seat of the small two-door automobile. The minister, in his three-piece suit, returned just in time to unwrap the umbilical cord from the boy's neck and help him breathe.The white pastor from the suburbs then prayed with the young black woman from the city before paramedics arrived to take mother and child to Magee-Womens Hospital. Gestrich and sons returned the next day with flowers. Newspaper and TV reporters showed up to cover the story portrayed as divine intervention by its participants.What has not been publicized previously is Broughton's troubled history before that night, or the forced removal of the newborn son from her care by child welfare caseworkers the day after she appeared on the newscasts.Broughton had spent 1991 to 1996 on and off drugs, in and out of court, and was deemed an unfit mother by the county agency. Her tale since then, since the night Andre was born, has been one of rehabilitation, redemption and, finally, reunification with all of her children just before Thanksgiving. It's a story Broughton doesn't mind telling. "It's getting easier each time I do it. ... The pain lessens, and each time I'm able to come forth and talk about it, I'm able to add a little more to it."Broughton, a Schenley High School graduate, said the wrong kind of acquaintances led her into a drug addiction while she was living in Oakland, working in fast-food restaurants and raising her first two sons with the help of her mother and husband, the father of all of her children. The search for money to support her habit led to multiple convictions for theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. She served a five-month jail sentence in 1996 after receiving probation for her initial offenses.Because of Broughton's history, her mother has long cared for her oldest son, Nathan, 15. County caseworkers placed her next three children in foster homes during and after her incarceration and temporarily removed Andre despite the positive publicity surrounding his birth.Andre was returned to his mother quickly when she agreed to enter a nine-month residential drug rehabilitation program at The Whale's Tale in Allentown. She has undergone weekly counseling and drug testing since then at the Center for Assessment and Treatment of Youth in Homestead.Her caseworkers and counselors are not permitted to discuss her case publicly, but Gestrich, who has been present at various Family Court hearings to support her, said court officials had praised her dedication to rebuild her family.Broughton's willingness to follow the step-by-step program expected of her by Children, Youth and Families enabled her to regain custody of son Paris, 8, in January, then daughter Malia, 5, in June, and, finally, Tyrone, 10, just before Thanksgiving after 30 months in foster care. Nathan, still living with his grandmother in Carnegie, will spend this weekend with his mother and siblings.Broughton is raising the children on her own because their father has continued struggling with drug dependency."There was a time I felt I would never get to where I am," Broughton said this week in a small living room made even more cramped by the Christmas tree in a corner. "I thought that once they took my children away, I would never get them back."She's thankful to Hilltop Baptist Church, whose members and spiritual leader she credits with a big role in saving her family.And she gives much credit to Gestrich, who has six children of his own and believed her at the hospital when she tried to convince CYF personnel that she had stayed off drugs during her pregnancy with Andre. He urged her to enter The Whale's Tale program and made regular phone calls to bolster her morale.He recruited congregation members to help her move to a better apartment when she finished the program. He baptized her last year before she joined the congregation of 550, housed in a church building made of logs near radio transmission towers high atop Banksville. And he handed her a cash gift from the congregation last Sunday to help her buy Christmas presents for her children."I think we both know he was sent to me for a reason," Broughton said of the energetic, 40-year-old minister whom she and others call "Pastor Mike." "He believed in me when no one else did."Gestrich said she deserved the credit herself, but the congregants have been moved by her story and helped whenever possible."She never asks for anything, but we sense when she has a need." Broughton is relying on Social Security disability benefits for income now because of a long-ago hip injury that makes it difficult to do any standing work, and she receives cash welfare payments from the state for her children.She hopes, however, to try to become a drug rehabilitation counselor in the near future. Those who know her say she has a perceptive ability to assess people and situations that would make her good at such work."When you have someone like Eula, if someone has the desire to take that which is broken and fix it, God will bless that," Gestrich said.Published: December 26, 1999 Copyrighted 1997, 1998, 1999 to PG Publishing Co.
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