NILES - Brandi Bobco never thought she'd say it was the best thing that ever happened to her when she and her husband, James, lost custody of their son.
The Bobcos, of Liberty, were smoking crack and using heroin when she was pregnant with their son, Warren, who was born at a meager weight of 3 1/2 pounds and suffered withdrawals for the first couple of weeks of his life.
Friday, the Bobcos were honored with a Children Services Rising Up and Moving On award after breaking free of their addictions and taking the necessary steps toward treatment and recovery. They now have temporary custody of Warren, who is described as healthy and happy.
James Bobco of Liberty wipes away tears after his wife, Brandi Bobco, left, gives a thank-you speech after they received a Trumbull County Children Services Rising Up and Moving On award on Friday at McMenamy’s in Niles.
Photo by R. Michael Semple
"A year ago, we were in a hard place," James Bobco said. "It's been a long, arduous journey. But it's all been worth it."
"It didn't make these things OK, but it made me who I am today," Brandi Bobco said. "Helping someone else not suffer ... is what my treatment is all about."
The annual Rising Up and Moving On luncheon, an event to recognize families and children who have prevailed over adversity, was held at McMenamy's in Niles and featured numerous elected officials, churches and representatives of local agencies who shared their support of Trumbull County Children Services.
Attorney Daniel B. Letson received a Service to Children Award for helping thousands of lives in Trumbull County as well as serving for 15 years on the Children Services board.
"We are here to celebrate children in Trumbull County," he said.
Guest speaker state Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, called the luncheon one of the most important events of the year for an agency that has made great strides in overcoming obstacles.
Everyone has mountains and valleys to overcome, but "for some folks, those mountains are higher and those valleys are deeper. Some folks don't always start out at a level playing field," she said. "In saving children, we save families, in saving families we save communities, in saving communities we save cities, in saving cities we save states, and in saving states, we save nations."
Two teenagers who were helped by Children Services and also recognized with awards were LeAmber Bridges of Warren and Tyrell Jethrow of Liberty.
"I've been through a lot the past 18 years," Bridges said, stopping numerous times during her speech to wipe away tears. "These people have helped me through all of my obstacles and tribulations."
Bridges was removed from her mother twice due to her struggles with substance abuse and has been in three different foster homes. Since being placed with her current foster family, Bridges, 18, has consistently made the honor roll, studies graphic communication at the Ashtabula Vocational Technical School and is studying to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery for entrance into the military.
"I thank God for helping me ... for this overwhelming experience. Just imagine where I'd be if it wasn't for him," she said.
Jethrow, 18, has been in foster care from the age of 8, but said he has never considered himself a foster child, rather "a kid that's in foster care."
Jethrow's childhood involved multiple placements and parental substance abuse. He also has a twin brother with whom he maintains a close relationship. He attends Liberty High School, where he was named captain of the football and wrestling teams for his senior years. He attributes his honor roll grades to his involvement in sports and a discipline that stems from wrestling.
"I forgave my biological parents. I understand their struggle," he said, expressing thanks to Children Services as well as God.
Warren resident Rebekah Foulk knows what it's like to be forgiven after a long but triumphant battle with alcoholism.
The day her son Jacob was removed from her care, she hit a brick wall. But after going through drug and alcohol treatment with the Neil Kennedy Center, she was reunited with him and now celebrates more than two years of sobriety. She was the fifth recipient of the 2013 Rising Up and Moving On award.
"I don't believe that without this aid that I would have been able to stop drinking successfully," she said, calling her struggle simple but not easy.
To her son, she said, "Thank you so much for being my best friend and thank you for forgiving me."