A clean slate. Carissa’s story
February 23, 2021
Shortly after marrying her husband at a young age, Carissa realized the abusive cycle she experienced as a child continued into her adult life and her marriage. After living with an abusive spouse for several years, she recognized that if she didn’t break this abusive and dysfunctional cycle, it would very likely continue with her children. She courageously made the choice to leave with her children, even if that meant they had to sleep on friends’ couches or live out of her car.
The following years were filled with many moves in and out of shelters and homeless programs. All the while, she was trying to work and get an education to give her children a better life. Carissa’s only networks of support were abusive and dysfunctional relationships, and she couldn’t gain any traction to create a stable life for her kids.
She worked hard to get her GED and took college classes, even though her family didn’t approve. Carissa shared, “There is this mindset in my culture that if you are trying to improve yourself, get a better job or a better education, that you think you’re better than everyone else.”
The years that followed were dark. The family members that were caring for her children used them to manipulate Carissa, and would only let her visit them when it benefited them in some way. Her family constantly pressured her to find a husband to take care of her and her kids. She wanted to create stability for herself and her children without entering into another potentially dysfunctional relationship.
Carissa began working at a home healthcare agency. She developed a bond with one of her clients and the woman asked her to leave the agency and be her full-time caretaker. This seemed to be a step in the right direction. Sadly, the client’s son falsely accused her of endangering the client and she was charged with a crime. She fought the charges, but was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.
During her prison intake process, she discovered that she was three weeks pregnant. She was thrilled and devastated all at once. She carried her daughter to term during the first nine months of her prison sentence. Three days after having her baby girl, her daughter was taken from her and she returned to prison alone. Thankfully, her baby was placed with a couple she had come to know, so her daughter was kept out of the foster care system.
Carissa continued to appeal her case and, after serving nearly two and a half years in prison, she was released in January 2020. Carissa recalled, “They let me out at 7:15 am and I got to hold my baby at 8:00. That was the first thing I did when I got out!”
After being released from prison she was able to stay with friends for a time. Through all of these trials, she continued her education and pursued her degree. When she no longer had a place to live with her daughter, a community partner referred Carissa to Bridge of Hope Greater Denver.
Carissa’s ambition and desire to work hard to make a better life for her family made her a great candidate for the Bridge of Hope program.
She was accepted into the Bridge of Hope Greater Denver program in August of 2020.
Since joining Bridge of Hope, Carissa has continued to seek justice in her case, maintaining that the charges against her were false and she was not granted a fair trial. Just a few months ago, the appeals court unanimously found her charges to be false, and she was granted “vindication”. Her conviction was overturned and will be completely removed from her record.
Carissa now has a fresh start through Bridge of Hope Greater Denver.
Despite all of the trauma experienced in her life, Carissa successfully completed a degree in IT in December of 2020.
She is now pursuing jobs in her field, and even an entry-level position will allow her to earn a living wage. Carissa is a great example of the kind of person that you help when you support Bridge of Hope Greater Denver. After years of struggle, Carissa needed hope and a chance to succeed, and that’s what she found through Bridge of Hope.
Carissa has always been a determined individual and through Bridge of Hope, she has the support and resources to completely change her life. She has risen from the depths to stand as a shining example of what can be accomplished through the support you provide when you support Bridge of Hope.
*Some details of this story have been modified to protect the privacy of the families.