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Updated: Friday, 15 Feb 2013, 10:07 AM EST
Published : Friday, 15 Feb 2013, 8:29 AM EST
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - While working on a special report, examining recent complaints about the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), News 18 asked via our Facebook page for someone to share their personal experience with DCS.
We got a lot of responses. We heard from people who echoed the statewide complaints about the hotline. Some claimed their children were mistakenly taken out of their homes. Others claimed their child was removed from their home and put into another abusive situation.
One story stood out. We received an email from a young woman named Nicoll Cain. She's currently in college on a scholarship, pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
We pulled up to her home and she came out to greet us. The first thing I noticed was her smile. She was well-spoken and polite. She told us she enjoys telling her story. She's proud of what she overcame during her childhood and how it shaped who she is today.
"It was difficult. Obviously very difficult," she said, thinking back to the time she was with her biological parents.
Nicoll explained how she was removed from an abusive home, twice, before the age of 13.
"My dad abused a lot of drugs and he was also abusive to my siblings and my mother and I. My mom, (pause) I don't really know her full reason for it. She had the choice though. She could have either chosen to stay with my biological dad or to have her children. And she chose to stay with him," Nicoll said.
She then went on to explain how her biological mother and father had their parental rights terminated. Nicoll said at one point she was placed in the home of a relative. Another period of her life she was in a girls school. Eventually, she and her two younger brothers ended up in foster care.
She remembers the day she was pulled out of class and told her future would change forever. She was in choir class and the school nurse came in to get her.
"...And they took me into the office and told me that child services was there to get me because we were getting taken away from my parents and going into a foster home," she said.
Psychologists report often how turmoil at home can lead to behavioral problems, trouble at school and even juvenile delinquency. Fortunately, that's not what happened to Nicoll.
"[I'm] really, really proud of her," said Nicoll's adoptive mother, Shawn Cain.
"They give me so much. They give me more than I need. They're always there for me. They love me no matter how many mistakes I make" said Nicoll when talking about her adoptive family.
When Nicoll was placed in foster care, she said she was often at the Cain's house. She was best friends in the eighth grade with their daughter. Their friendship led her to her forever family.
Shawn said she and her husband Brian had adopted a child privately before and were interested in becoming foster parents. She was on the internet one day, looking at what they needed to do in order to become foster parents when she came across Nicoll's photo.
"I called Brian and said, 'Hey Nicoll's brothers and her are on the website. They're up for adoption!' He says, 'We got to do something.'"
The Cains later adopted Nicoll and her two younger brothers. The experience led the Cains to want to help other children too. They are still foster parents. They've taken in children whether it has been a few hours or a few months or permanently through more adoptions.
"Just to help one kid out... and 13 later, I think we've helped a few. [We've] given them a safe environment whether it's short term or long term," said Shawn.
Shawn said she's happy to be a mentor to parents who follow all the right steps and get the help they need to be reunited with their children. In one case, she said she is still in contact with a mother who was able to have her child returned. She added, the family was doing very well.
Before being adopted by the Cains, Nicoll said her foster parents gave her a foundation that helped her through a tough time. She said her foster parents still keep in touch, asking how she is doing from time to time. She knows she was lucky.
"I hear stories of people who don't get foster parents like I did. That, they don't treat the kids the way they should be treated. I don't think that's right and I don't understand how they can allow those people to be foster parents," she said.
According to its website, the Department of Child Services says family reunification is the ultimate goal. In her situation, Nicoll doesn't think her biological father should've received a second chance."
"If it would've been my choice, he wouldn't have gotten another chance," she said.
Shawn also agrees some changes may be needed to DCS.
"We can't go to the local DCS office and say you know what, 'I have a concern here.' It has to go through the hotline and then the hotline is going to decide whether or not it's even considered," she said.
Even with complaints, both Shawn and Nicoll said there are good people who work at DCS and that the system can work,
just as it did for Nicoll.
"My two biological brothers and I... We were put into such a bad situation and I always thought there was no hope for me," Nicoll said, thinking back.
Nicoll hopes by telling her story, other children out there who are in a bad situation will have hope that life can get better.
"If they're stuck in a home like that, it almost brings you down and you don't think you can be someone that important but these kids can be someone important. I [know I] have a great future ahead of me. I don't know what it's going to be but I know I'm going to do amazing things."
Nicoll wants to make an impact on people's lives for the better. She hopes to one day become a police officer. She wants to start small, as a town marshal. She said she wants people to know her name and be able to be connected with the people in her community who need help. Then, she said, maybe one day, she hopes to be a detective with a larger police department.
If you know of a child in an abusive situation, DCS operates a report hotline 24/7. You can give them a call at 1(800) 800-5556. More information from DCS is posted on the agency's website.
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