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"The best advice I can give to someone who's in a lot of trouble both emotionally and physically," says Wendi Waters, "is to ask for help, wherever you can. Asking for help was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. But if you don't ask, you'll never know." Because she was the product of an abusive, dysfunctional family, Wendi knew she would likely carry dysfunctional behaviours into her own parenting. She read everything she could find, and believed the knowledge gained through books would help her break the cycle of abuse. In 1994, Wendi attended parenting classes at the Brighter Futures Family Center in Hamilton. Despite her best intentions to stop her destructive behaviour, it wasn't that simple. It was difficult for Wendi to focus on parenting skills while she and the girls constantly scrambled for safety and a decent place to live. In 1995, with her two daughters in tow, Wendi summoned the courage to flee an abusive partner. That action created a situation characterized by constant fear for their safety, severe poverty, isolation and mental health challenges. In 1998, Wendi and the girls moved to Second Stage housing in London. For the first time in four years she felt safe. Desperate to break the pattern of abuse, and emboldened by a feeling of security, Wendi sought help. She says, After finishing the parenting class [in Hamilton] I realized just how much of the children's well-being rested on my parenting skills. She pored through the yellow pages for agencies to call. After six months on the waiting list at Vanier Children's Services they each started into therapy. It was the turning point for the family. The kids began to feel more secure at home. Life started to move in a better direction because the girls saw their mother seeking help and practicing what she was learning; she was invested in their well-being. At Vanier, Wendi learned more parenting skills and underwent what she calls re-training as a parent. She knew she couldn't accomplish it alone. Her own life experience wasn't enough. With Vanier's help, Wendi learned to separate her adult world from the children's. The girls learned social skills and how to manage their issues and fears. Says Wendi, "When an agency says, "We care about you. We're going to try and help you in any way we can", you just breathe easier. There's hope. If it wasn't for Vanier, I would not have had hope."
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