Heroism forged in pain

September 11, 2014 

Now a parent mentor, Ambyr Rose was honored by the Board of Supervisors. Photo/L.A. Daily News

Ambyr Rose descended from generations of drug-addicted mothers whose children ended up in the foster care system. She, however, overcame that legacy of abuse and neglect and now helps broken families become whole again.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky named her the 3rd District’s Family Reunification Hero, citing her work in the Department of Children and Family Services’ Parents in Partnership program.

“Her passion for encouraging others to engage in recovery and to find their way towards reunification with their children is what set her apart,” Yaroslavsky said.

This was the fifth year for the Family Reunification Hero awards, which honor individuals, families, organizations and agencies who’ve made significant contributions towards helping children return to their homes and families. Every year, each member of the Board of Supervisors awards a scroll to the hero chosen for his or her district.

Rose, a 31-year-old Sylmar resident, said her traumatic experiences have strengthened her resolve to restore families torn apart by drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty and other reasons.

“I think the reason I went through everything I did is so that I can help others, make a difference in their lives,” she said. “I truly, honestly, believe that we all have a purpose, and this is mine.”

Rose’s resilience helped her break her family’s cycle of tragedy and despair.

Her grandmother, a heroin addict, killed herself while playing Russian roulette. Her mother, orphaned at a young age, entered foster care and also became hooked on drugs.

Rose bounced around from foster home to foster home until aging out of the system. She also suffered from sexual abuse.

Trying to dull her pain, she reached for the same stuff that ruined her mother and grandmother.

“Crystal meth was my drug of choice but I used anything, really — anything to fill a void, anything to numb myself,” Rose said.

By age 21, she was homeless and the mother of three young children.

“We were sleeping in the stairwells of buildings, in cars, basically any spot that we could find a place,” Rose said. “I hit rock bottom in 2005 when my youngest, who was 18 months old, had pneumonia for the third time and had to be hospitalized.”

She decided to “call DCFS on myself,” prompting social workers to place her children in a foster home in Palmdale.

Over the next year, Rose remained a slave to her drug addiction and didn’t once call her children, thinking they were better off without her. But when a court moved to terminate her parental rights so her children could be adopted, Rose checked into rehab.

She was then pregnant with her fourth child.

Rose stayed sober and learned job skills through the Via Avanta Residential Center in Pacoima, obtained housing through the federal Section 8 program, and childcare support and other aid through CalWorks.

Rose was reunited with her children in 2007.

Almost a decade after she hit “rock bottom,” Rose remains sober, is close to earning a degree at a community college and works for DCFS as a “parent partner.” Her two oldest children are both honor students.

“She’s magnificent,” said 27-year-old Shelly Sor of Northridge, who is trying to regain custody of her children after being accused of not doing enough to help a son with a behavioral disorder.

“If Ambyr hadn’t given us the tools, the support, I think we would have failed completely,” Sor said. “If she hadn’t been there, I think we would have given up.”

Rose’s fellow parent partner, Ryan Bennet, nominated her as a Family Reunification Hero.

“The biggest thing about Ambyr is her attitude,” Bennett said. “She’s always looking for solutions, always willing to keep fighting.”

Posted 9/11/14

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