The Cuff Family: Through Thick & Thin, Love Wins
The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) shares that over the last 30 years, countless families have been separated over struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, as was the case for the Cuff Family. Linda (mom), Quiana and Jaslyn (daughters) Cuff have made the decision to heal their family traumas by telling their story.
When Linda had her first daughter, Quiana, she considered herself a “functional addict,” but certain life experiences, such as her father’s suicide, became crippling to her. As a result of this and other traumas, her disease progressed and Linda eventually needed something more than alcohol in order to cope with everyday life.
This disease is cunning, baffling…and it’s powerful. So, to deal with that pain, I just needed more and I spiraled out of control.—Linda Cuff
A few years later, Linda gave birth to Jaslyn, who was immediately taken away. Quiana and Jaslyn were in the care of their grandmother, Emma Cuff, until Linda beat her addiction. Both Quiana and Jaslyn share that although they knew of their mother’s addictions, they had wonderful experiences in their grandmother’s care. Quiana tells ASCI that she is grateful she had her grandmother take her into custody so she didn’t have to be in the care of unknown foster parents.
When remembering their time with Emma, Jaslyn admits that she didn’t think much about it because, simply, “This is my grandma.” However, when Emma passed away, Jaslyn was humbled by all the memories, conversations and pictures she had shared with her.
From left to right: Quiana (top left), Jaslyn (bottom left), Emma (middle) and Linda (right)
“When I was a child, my grandmother and I went to church a lot,” Jaslyn shares. “We had Sunday school and Friday-night services. We went shopping. We danced. We spent a lot of time together, and we spent a lot of time praying.” She and Quiana agree that their grandmother instilled faith into their everyday lifestyles.
My grandma taught me how to pray. She taught me how a woman should carry herself. She made sure we knew that Jesus was the foundation of everything we need.—Quiana Cuff
Initially, Linda had trouble getting back on her feet, but she was determined to take care of her daughters. Through the help of several caseworkers, Linda took parenting classes and got connected to rehab services. She says that regaining custody of her daughters was “challenging but fulfilling.” She wants parents to know that birth parent programs work if they work hard at it.
Jaslyn recalls her caseworkers being tough on her mother, because they wanted the Cuffs to be reunified.
“Mr. Joe was hard on my case and hard on my mom,” she recalls. “At first, I didn’t think he wanted us together, but all of his hard work paid off. I’ve appreciated all of the caseworkers that worked with us through A Second Chance [Inc.]. They were all so caring, and I felt like everything they did for us was genuine. I would like to see more caseworkers like that.”
From left to right: Jaslyn and Linda
All three women agree that in order for parents to regain custody of their children, caseworkers must have the determination and heart—and some tough love—to help families achieve reunification. Quiana explains that the reason she and Jaslyn were able to return home to their mother is because their caseworkers were honest with Linda. “They didn’t hold back information from my mom,” Quiana says. “They told her exactly what she needed to do in order to get us back, and if she didn’t do what needed to be done, we couldn’t go back. More families need the kind of caseworkers we had.”
Jaslyn adds that the voices of youth in care matter, as well. “Children know what they want. Children know what they need. Caseworkers have to listen to them,” she insists.
“I never thought I would say I was grateful for the child welfare system, but I am,” Linda shares. “I am really grateful for them. I never thought I would even say that. Looking at where I am today and where I was, I am totally different and I’m grateful today. God has brought me a mighty long way, and that’s it.”
Now, more than 10 years since their case closed, Linda, Quiana and Jaslyn remain close to one another and live by what Emma taught them. “If it wasn’t for my mother, I don’t know where I’d be today,” Linda says. “I have no desire whatsoever to do crack cocaine again. Jesus is my drug of choice.”
From left to right: Quiana, Linda and Jaslyn
For current foster youth reading this story, Quiana wants you to know that there is a brighter side to your story. “Even though you may be in a tough space right now, please just know that your parents love you.”
Jaslyn adds, “Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t become a product of your environment. You can be better than your circumstances. Stay positive and prayerful. Always know that your situation will get better.”
Quiana and Jaslyn are grateful to their mother and all three to their grandmother for never giving up on them despite their circumstances.
In Loving Memory of Emma Cuff
There is an old-school Gospel song that says, “Somebody prayed for me. They had me on their minds. They took their time to pray for me. I’m so glad they prayed for me.” The Cuff Family wholeheartedly believes that the prayers from their mother and grandmother, Emma Cuff, eventually pulled this family together and continue to make them stronger.