About this episode:
Juliana Barton, a foster care alumna with big dreams, has never wanted pity, she's only ever wanted to be seen for her talents, abilities and wholeness. In the face of childhood abuse, epic systemic injustice and heart-wrenching family tragedy, she epitomizes strength, resilience, grit and grace. Juliana's unbroken spirit echoes in her words, her commitments and her advocacy, and it will astound you.
About our guest:
From child abuse survivor and misunderstood teen to advocate and aspiring physician, Juliana Barton’s journey has been punctuated with tremendous adversity. One thing, however, has remained consistent: her commitment to serving her community. After enduring a tumultuous upbringing, she entered the foster care system, where she remained until aging out. Despite facing new challenges as a young adult, Juliana was steadfast in her determination to change her narrative. In addition to pursuing a career in medicine, she is a passionate speaker about the child welfare system. As the governmental liaison for ACTION Ohio, she has served on numerous panels, presentations, and advocacy campaigns. She is also a member of Governor DeWine’s Advisory Council on Children Services Transformation and the Ohio Department of Medicaid OhioRISE Advisory Committee. Juliana encourages others with her message—never overlook the power of transformation.
Where to find Juliana Barton online:
Other Resources Mentioned:
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Kristen Cerelli 0:00
The interviews in this podcast, all of which are ultimately uplifting stories of human transformation may contain general discussions of depression, trauma, violence, abuse, or cultural and racial bias. On this episode of shift, shift gloom,
Juliana Barton 0:16
the way that people treated me was as if it were something that I had caused myself. And so that was really challenging to just come to an understanding and realizing, you know, these things weren't my fault, especially when you're being told by your abuser, that the reason that this is happening is because of you. And so when you have others around you who are treating you as if you did this to yourself, you begin to wonder if it's true.
Kristen Cerelli 0:45
Today I'm talking with Juliana Barton, a foster care alumna and advocate from Ohio, whose life is a study in resilience, courage, and the power of finding your voice. I'm Kristen Cerelli, and you're listening to shift shift bloom, a podcast about how people change.
My guest today is Juliana Barton, a foster care alumna who grew up experiencing firsthand the flaws in the very broken system of Child Protective Services. She finally entered foster care at the age of 17, but was emancipated shortly after her 18th birthday at 34. She is now a vocal advocate for youth and families and child welfare and appointee of Governor Mike De wines serving on the Children's Services transformation Advisory Council. Earlier this year, Ohio, Casa selected Juliana as one of their international women's day honorees for her dedication to improving the experience of and eliminating barriers for those involved in child welfare. She is also an aspiring physician. Welcome, Juliana.
Juliana Barton 2:09
Thank you, Kristen, for having me here today.
Kristen Cerelli 2:11
So it seems like maybe it's an obvious question to start with. But what were the circumstances in your life that necessitated you're entering foster care?
Juliana Barton 2:24
Sure. So growing up, I was living in a really abusive household, there was a lot of instability with both of my parents, originally, you know, when I was younger, they had been married. But there were instances in which my mother would be gone for several days at a time. And basically, what was happening during that time, is she was struggling with addiction, and abusing drugs. But at the same time, so was my my dad. My dad was very abusive early on, I it was something that I had always seen throughout their relationship ever since I was really, really young. It was actually one of my first memories. And so just seeing all that, that violence throughout my childhood, and once my mother went on one of her binges and didn't return, he then directed that anger towards my sister and I. So for several years, we suffered through horrific and unthinkable abuse at his hands. And during that time, though, it wasn't as if it wasn't noticed by others. It was well documented at our school, and there were reports made on our behalf to to Child Protective Services. But each incident had always just ended without any intervention. And so it kind of became a hopeless situation for for my sister and I. And we learned that it was actually better to not say anything, then because each incident would always end with, you know, punishment by our father for having maybe spoken up or even if we didn't, even if we weren't the ones who had said something. The very fact that somebody had made a call, or noticed it was something that we were punished
Kristen Cerelli 4:33
for. How old were you when your mom left and didn't come back?
Juliana Barton 4:39ly. But it was I think it was:
Kristen Cerelli 5:16
you're clearly already developing an intelligence and an intuition. beyond your years at eight, if you look out the window and you heal, but you're also learning not to speak up how to hide things. Is that true?
Juliana Barton 5:35
Absolutely. I think when you're in a situation like that, and also, you know, as I said, Before, it was hopeless, or it's it felt hopeless, you learn to manage the things as they are because you don't have a choice.
Kristen Cerelli 5:52
You have no agency, know, how can this be? I mean, how can there be no intervention? How can none of these reports and these check ins and investigations result in you being removed from your home until you're 17 years old, like what went wrong?
Juliana Barton 6:11
I honestly am not sure what went wrong at the time as an adult. And as I become more involved within advocacy, I can see certain things now obviously, that I can pick up on. But in my own situation, I really didn't understand how these reports were being made by other people, not even ourselves. And how there would be no intervention. The only thing that I can really say is that my dad was a very manipulative, manipulative talker. And I think that he knew really well how to manipulate a situation to be in his favor.
Kristen Cerelli 6:59
So at 17, you finally go into foster care. What, what was the turning point what was different there,
Juliana Barton 7:08
I have an older sister. And by that time, she had been gone for a while I think about a year she had run away. She just obviously, couldn't manage the situation and felt that the only choice that she had was to remove herself. And unfortunately, you know, she, she couldn't take me with her. And so I lived in that situation with my father, by myself for an entire year. And, of course, her leaving had an effect and increased his aggression towards me, I think also had to do with the fact that I was getting older, and he knew that there could be the possibility that I would be leaving as well. And I think he was just losing control. And throughout that year, the abuse became even more severe. And I really feared for my life. I honestly did not believe that I was going to survive the situation. And on the day that I entered care. It was one of the most severe beatings that I received from him. And I had no idea how I didn't even come over me. But I just felt like this calm resolve. And I ran faster than I had ever run before. I had no idea where to go to because because of the lack of intervention previously, but I, I really didn't have a choice on where I could reach out to there wasn't any anything else. And I had no idea how bad my injuries were at the time. But they were severe enough that finally they had decided like, whoa, you know, maybe we shouldn't leave her with it. Maybe we should take her. So were you hospitalized? I was not actually, the way that it was processed. Is it has been a huge influence on on where I have seen my career going. And what actually ended up happening. So it was a weekend. It was on a Saturday. And John, children's service agencies are not open on weekends. They do have some staff that are on call like for emergencies. And so they ended up having to call in certain people. And I went, they took me to the agency, and I received absolutely no medical care. I was not like checked over by a nurse or a physician or anything like that. Instead, what had happened is my entire like entrance interview, if you want to call it that took place in an empty conference room at the front of this child services agency. Like, really, it was right by the street. Of course, the blinds were closed and everything but I, I was made to undress. In this conference room. It was empty. But nonetheless, it was the conference room. And I was made to undress in the presence of a male officer, to have my body photographed for evidence. And that was really the extent of my I guess, if you want to call it my my checkup. But of course, you know, that's not going to be somebody who can sit there and determine whether or not you need medical attention. And also, I mean, it was it was that just the fact of having that have happened to me being my first experience, as I'm entering care, it was traumatizing in itself.Kristen Cerelli:
I can't even imagine. It sounds like at every step of the way. No one is putting you first. And to add, to say, to add insult to injury doesn't even honor doesn't even suggest how wronged you, or at every step of the way. Do you have feelings about that? When you talk about it now that that moment in the in the conference room? Are you angry? Are you humiliated? How do you feel?Juliana Barton:
I definitely was humiliated, and I am still thinking about it is really humiliating. Because, you know, I'm a 17 year old female, I was a late bloomer. But, you know, as my I'm going through these changes, and I have this discomfort with males, in particular from my trauma, and then having again, no say, in allowing what then happened, just for the sake of evidence needing to be collected. I mean, I knew how crucial it was to have the evidence, of course, yes. And if I, if that hadn't been collected, I'm not sure that he would have been convicted. But at the same time, I think that it was very demeaning. I don't think it was handled properly, I think. I mean, at least I hope, things like that don't happen anymore. But for myself, you know, when when they did take me into care, I had felt this relief, like I was finally going to be saved. And then my very first experience when I, when I had reached the agency, was this. And it ended up being a really telling experience for what would what would essentially come for the rest of my time that I was in care.Kristen Cerelli:
So how long is it before you're placed? You're in the conference room? They take pictures. It's a Saturday. Where are you then where do you sleep that night?Juliana Barton:
My situation is very, just not typical. The person that I had reached out to at the child service agency, she was the aunt of a of a former classmate that I had, who was also my friend. And what ended up happening is, there were no homes that were willing, or able, I guess, to take a teenager like myself, because at the time and I'm not sure if they still are able to do this at the time, you can specify what certain things about the children that you're willing to take, you know, what age, what sex, what race, you can, you can really be specific and who you will accept. So there were no no homes that were available at the time. And recently, somebody had told me from that agency, what would have ended up happening is that I would have been shipped out of state most likely.Kristen Cerelli:
Giuliana is hinting at the fact that most foster families don't want to or don't feel equipped to take teams and they don't have to older foster kids are less likely to be placed in families. According to a recent report by the Annie E Casey Foundation compared with 95% of children 12 And under only 58% of foster teens are placed with families. The rest are sent to congregate care group homes where teenagers live together under the supervision of adult staff often medicated whether they Need to Be or Not shower times and mealtimes regulated, basically warehoused in a way no kids should have to live. Giuliana fared a little bit better.Juliana Barton:
But what did happen is that I went to the home of one of the caseworkers, sisters. And it was an unlicensed, unlicensed foster care home. Or I mean, it was just it wasn't a foster care home at all. It was just, they would call it an unlicensed home. And that's who I ended up staying with for the entirety of my time and care. So it was just a really, like I said, it wasn't a typical arrangement.Kristen Cerelli:
What was your relationship like with her?Juliana Barton:
I mean, of course, like I said, I had known her because she was the mother of my friend. And so I was familiar with her. But I think the dynamic of that relationship changed dramatically. Once I was in her home as like, an inch she was my caregiver.Kristen Cerelli:
in negative ways,Juliana Barton:
yes, I would say negative. And I don't think it's through any fault of her own. I like I said, it was a situation that was sprung on her last minute. And I obviously I came from a very impoverished, impoverished situation, she was not much better off herself, she was a single parent, raising two children. And she, they were actually in private school. So she was working really hard to get them through private school, like paying their tuition and whatnot. So her financial situation was not very much better than the one that I had come from. And I think then having to sit there and care for our third person at the last minute was a huge stressor for her.Kristen Cerelli:
That's really compassionate of you to see her. And what had been thrust upon her with those eyes in that lens, because I'm sure, I would imagine you were hoping it would be warm and fuzzy, and a soft place to land.Juliana Barton:
I think at that point, I would have been willing to accept just about anything, though.Kristen Cerelli:
You mentioned something that we haven't talked about before, which is that your dad was convicted. What happened there?Juliana Barton:
After I entered care, there was a court case against him. That was brought on by the City of Toledo where I was born and raised. And he wasn't actually charged for child endangerment or child abuse or neglect or anything like that, which was really, I guess, at the time really unusual to me. I mean, it still is unusual. But he was charged with domestic violence and domestic assault, which is really what you would see with a partner. So so that, that that kind of threw me off, but what ended up happening is, so they brought this case up against him. And I think it was even over a year. But it took a while for this case to go throughKristen Cerelli:
the court system,Juliana Barton:
yes. But throughout that entire process, I was subpoenaed every single appearance that he had to make like I had to be there as well. And I was still a minor at the time. So it was it was just really intimidating. But I was subpoenaed as a witness to, to the case that the city had against him. And there were just a lot of things that happened during that time period, which made it even more challenging, such as they were sending the subpoenas that were meant to be for me to the address where I used to live meaning with my father. And so there was one instance where the case had actually been dismissed. The case was dismissed, because I hadn't shown but it was because they were sending the subpoenas to the wrong place. Thankfully, I was able or not even me the city was able to sit there and and have it reopened. But this drug on for like I said over a year. It was very traumatizing to me having to sit there and see him again and again and he would try to come up and say things to me just a lot of intimidation tactics until finally they had gotten me a domestic violence advocate who then, you know, like every every appearance that I had to make would shuttle me into a safe area, so that I could be separated from him. And as this case is going about, they're calling witnesses from my school and whatnot, people who had known me to be character witnesses, it was just a really embarrassing situation, because it wasn't something that I wanted, like publicized. But I didn't really have a choice in that. As I was going through this case, too, I felt really defeated by some of the things that the judge had said, I can remember one particular instance, it was in the very beginning, where she had said, right, as we walked in there, we better make this quick, quick, because I have a doctor's appointment to get to. And at that, like when I heard that, at that moment, I really truly felt that I wasn't even important enough to be prioritized. So throughout that court case, what ended up happening is, instead of really looking at it through the lens of like, this is what had happened to me. I, I was attacked by my father's lawyer, and my father, like my character was attacked. And that was really what the judge ended up attaching to. And I for a while there didn't believe that he would be even convicted. But in the end, I mean, he was what ended up happening, though, it was really just a slap on the wrist. So the case had drawn out for so long. I can still remember the city prosecutor calling me into his office, and he said, I have good news and I have bad news. It's like, which do you want first. And the bad news was that they had reached the statute of limitations. And the good news was that I no longer had to go there anymore. After all, over a year of constant appearances where I was subpoenaed. It felt like all that effort had been for nothing. But what he ended up doing instead of going to a jury trial, like it was planned, because it had reached the statute of limitations. He took a plea deal.Kristen Cerelli:
Do you think his lawyers were dragging his lawyers were part of dragging things out so that they would get to the point where they would reach the statute of limitations? Absolutely. Or is that just happenstance?Juliana Barton:
Oh, no, I believe that was probably some sort of tactic or a strategy that he was using to his advantage. It wasn't the first court case against my father, it was actually the third and third person meaning my case against my father was the third case alleging abuse at his hands. So prior to that my mom had a case. And my sister had a case,Kristen Cerelli:
did the plea deal include any time in jail?Juliana Barton:
Honestly, I, I didn't look to see what it all entailed. Because I was so frustrated with the outcome. I do know that he was on probation. And one of the charges that were brought up against him was dropped. But in the first place, you know, the fact that he was charged with domestic assault and domestic violence. Those are like misdemeanors in the fourth degree, which are much less severe and punishment than child endangerment and child abuse. So I felt like he was given leniency right from the very beginning by what they chose to charge him with.Kristen Cerelli:
Perhaps a strange question to ask now, but I want to know, if you remember, in those first 17 years of your life, what did you wish for?Juliana Barton:
I think, and neighbors can say this about me too. I was constantly outside and singing. And I would walk up and down the driveway. Just you know, pacing back and forth, or I would be in the backyard and I would be singing about this family that I wish I had this idea of like this nuclear family. So I would, I would sing about this family. That was like, I guess you could say the American dream. a mom and a dad like caring and loving in a house with a picket fence. And it was it was something that I had just really wanted at the time because I didn't have that.Kristen Cerelli:
Yeah, they say singing releases a lot of endorphins, actually, I, I wonder if in addition to it being a wish it maybe made you feel better. Somehow,Juliana Barton:
I could absolutely see that. And coincidentally, it was through that, that my next door neighbor heard me, I didn't, I wasn't aware that anybody was actually listening to me. But it was through that, that my next door neighbor had heard me and asked me to join like the church choir. So just being able to have time away from home where she would take my sister and I to church, and I could sing was a reprieve from the situation that I was in.Kristen Cerelli:
So you get emancipated at 18. And that word really strikes me as ironic. Because it's, you know, smacks of freedom and being unchained. But at 18, with what you've been through, and with a serious lack of support, what is what is your day to day life? Like?Juliana Barton:
In all honesty, I didn't even know what that word meant when, when I was told that I had been emancipated. So it was, it was a word that I had to learn. And the circumstances surrounding that word, the things that I had to learn from that. Were really challenging. So I had gone from this very rigid environment with my father, where I was isolated, and just very strict. And then I entered into another rigid situation when I was in the foster care system, you really don't have autonomy and making decisions. And then it's like overnight, suddenly, you are given full autonomy of yourself and your decisions. And you're left to create, I guess, structure by yourself and without guidance.Kristen Cerelli:
How does it happen? Do you get a phone call to somebody come and knock on the door? Who makes this announcement? And, and what do they tell you about what your realities are now?Juliana Barton:
It happens, at least how it happened for me, my caseworker came. And this actually happened nine days after my 18th birthday. So my birthday is actually December 27. So in, in the time of around the holidays. And I think that it actually took nine days, because, you know, people had time off for the holidays. But what ended up happening is that she my caseworker had come and she came to do like the exit interview with me. And it was just, you know, I, I didn't understand really what what the implications of this word emancipation meant. And the supports that I would be cut off from, but I didn't have a say in that. I think the way that it was framed was you know, you're doing so well. So well, in fact that, you know, we've decided to emancipate you, because there are there are some youth in care who are kept longer. But because I was seen as doing really well, I I guess they didn't feel that I needed their services anymore, though, you know, if you really think about it, perhaps I was doing well, because they were my support system and, and then suddenly, that's being cut off. It was just a really uncomfortable situation. Because, you know, obviously, I was in a home, that was not my own. And this individual was caring for me, and then suddenly she also would not be receiving any financial assistance. And so I was acutely aware of that. And it an uncomfortable situation just became more uncomfortable. And so feeling that I did not have many choices that I could make in trying to sit and understand how I could best support myself and and get housing and food and basically your basic needs. I left high school because I was still a senior in high school at the time.Kristen Cerelli:
According to the adoption exchange agency, about 20,000, youth aged out of foster care every year, the age someone is emancipated varies by state. But regardless of whether that's 1819 20, or 21, outcomes for youth who age out of foster care are often poor. Studies show that they're at increased risk for homelessness, young parenthood, low educational attainment, high unemployment rates, and other adverse adult outcomes. The state of Ohio didn't do anything illegal by emancipating Juliana when she turned 18. But had it been just a few years later, things might have been different for her child. trends.org says that in 2008, the Federal fostering transitions to success and increasing Adoptions Act became law, providing additional federal guidance and expanded funding to states that extend foster care past age 18. This enables older youth to remain in foster care through their 21st birthday, if they are enrolled in high school or post secondary education employed or participating in an Employment Training Program, or are unable to meet these criteria due to a disability. By my mind is exploding now with you're in the middle of your your senior year in high school, and you have no financial support, no emotional support, no housing, and no one at school steps in.Juliana Barton:
I can't say that it's completely their fault, I feel it was a very embarrassing situation for me. And my sister and I had been teased and bullied throughout most of our life, just for being different, I suppose you could say. And so I didn't want to bring attention to myself, though. I mean, the school did know about my situation. I really don't honestly, know what happened there. But there wasn't any sort of support in that area. I'm not sure if there would have been anything at that time that they could have even done. But in the end, I was able to get my high school diploma later in that year. So I'm really thankful for that at least. But as far as like my basic needs, and helping me to figure out how I was going to accomplish that i i did not receive any help with that.Kristen Cerelli:
So you go out and you get a job.Juliana Barton:
Yes, I, I did, I went out and I got a job. I was working full time at a local produce market.Kristen Cerelli:
And where are you living?Juliana Barton:
So I stayed for a while at the house that I was placed in. Eventually, I I began dating someone from high school. And I ended up moving in with his family barely knowing him or his family. So I think that certain I had to compromise certain things to ensure that I had a roof over my head. So putting myself in uncomfortable situations.Kristen Cerelli:
You would rather not have been there.Juliana Barton:
I don't know if I would have rather not been there. I think that it was just again, another uncomfortable situation in which I was acutely aware that I was, again different. And I'm very appreciative for my high school boyfriend's family for having taken me in and trying to help me through that situation. But I think the status of being in foster care, and the stigmas that are associated with that. I think people see you differently. And I felt that I was treated differently. And I think there were things that they just didn't understand. And I think that's very common things that they didn't understand how to help me through them how to help me through that situation, how to help me process, the trauma that I had been through, because I hadn't received any assistance for that while I was in care. Like I wasn't seeing a therapist or anything like that. And so I had all this unaddressed trauma, and then I'm bouncing through situations in which I'm in housing that again still doesn't feel like a home to me. It's just another are uncomfortable situation. But I ultimately just have to, I had to stick those situations out in order to, I guess, ensure my survival?Kristen Cerelli:
Yeah. Yeah. Um, is there any levity in your life at this point? Or is it all struggle and survival?Juliana Barton:
Of course, I'm not trying to make it sound like it was all terrible. I mean, there were definitely situations even, of course, like, when I was staying with the family that I was placed with. There, there's there were good things. There were positive things, happy moments that I have had all throughout my life. Of course, even in the in the midst of these challenges.Kristen Cerelli:
You mentioned, the stigma surrounding being a foster youth, you mentioned feeling different. It's not like you can go back and change it. But how did you want to be seen? What did you need, in really basic ways from other people that you weren't getting,Juliana Barton:
just even being attached to that label, being demonized for that, even though, you know, it was no fault of my own. But I felt like, the way that people treated me was as if it were something that I had caused myself. And so that was really challenging to just come to an understanding, obviously, later in life as an adult, and realizing, you know, these things weren't my fault, especially when you're being told by your abuser, that the reason that this is happening is because of you. And so when you have others around you who are treating you as if you did this to yourself, then you, you begin to wonder if it's true. And I think that's really damaging, and it delays any sort of healing that may take place afterward. I really just wanted to be seen. As a person like everybody else, as not as a foster youth or an abused child, I didn't want to be pitied. I wanted to be seen as a normal person, though, at the time, I had this idealized version of what I thought normal was. And over time, I've come to understand it as something else. Really, I just wanted to be seen for the things that I could be capable of. And I think that I had, I had talent, and could have done a lot of really amazing things. I'm not that I'm not doing that and aren't going to do those things. But I think I could have, if I would have had that support and would have, it would have been recognized. And if people would have invested in me, like taking that chance. I think that my potential could have been realized sooner.Kristen Cerelli:
What were those first few years after high school, like in practical ways, and what what were you trying to do for yourself now that you're emancipated now that you're being told you are you're an adult? Now, what do you want from your adult life?Juliana Barton:
So just going back to when you had asked me like what I had wished about, I guess another thing that I had not mentioned was, I was very motivated to create this better life for myself. And though I left high school early, and things weren't going as how I had originally pictured them, meaning I didn't go to, you know, I didn't go to college, I didn't apply to college, I didn't go to a university right away. It wasn't something that I knew would be forever. I knew it was a temporary situation. So I just worked really hard. But despite even working hard, there were there were several challenges that I had encountered during that time period. I mean, I guess across the entire span of my life, there are unique challenges that come with being somebody who is emancipated from the foster care system. One of the biggest challenges I would say is that lack of guidance, lack of a support network. So you're sitting there and you're trying to navigate this transition into adulthood without any assistance, and there were a lot of mistakes that I had made. But there were a lot of things that were still out of my control. Even though I was not still in this like rigid environment. There were are a lot of things that were happening around me that I could not. I could not control.Kristen Cerelli:
What was your relationship with your family, like, at that point, if, if any at all.Juliana Barton:
When I was younger, I had a very active relationship with my mother's family, and actually also with my father's family too. And it was really, you know, as I got older that my, my dad isolated us, and then cut off contact with my mother's family as well, especially after she had left and didn't come back. But by that time, you know, I hadn't seen them in probably a decade. So yeah, there wasn't really any family finding efforts that took place when I was in care. Though I, I feel like, I'm not sure but maybe somebody would have come forward and said they could have taken care of me, there was a point at time, while I was still in my my father's care that I lived with his sister, my aunt, for like a month or so. And another point in time when in which I lived with the neighbor, the one who caught me singing. So I feel like perhaps those were two avenues that could have been explored, but they were not. So after I had left care, I was curious about my family, you know, you still have this yearning for a connection. And I reunited with my mom and my maternal grandparents and my sister, and was not as great as what I had pictured. I think there were a lot of expectations that I had. But they I guess I had this vision of what I thought it would be like, and it just didn't end up like that. Over the years, though, I think I have been able to have a better relationship with my maternal grandparents, and they're really the ones who are and still remain like active in my life.Kristen Cerelli:
At that age, at 1819 2021 years old. Everyone's struggling with life things that people with, let's say, quote unquote, normal support systems, family and friends, have assistance in navigating things like major disappointment. And it sounds like it sounds like trying to reunite with if at least your mom was a big disappointment. How did you navigate that? What were what were your coping tools or skills or mechanisms?Juliana Barton:
I think I had believed that if she was out of the situation, meaning I guess you could say saved from the situation of being in the presence of my father and and being abused by him. I thought if she was removed from that situation, that she would be a different person. And in reality I that is not what I experienced. To be fair, though. She experienced a lot of trauma that was also unaddressed and in how, how things unfolded for our relationship. I think that unaddressed trauma in her own life definitely impacted the possibility of a relationship between us and how that just didn't end up playing out.Kristen Cerelli:
You wanted her to have changed.Juliana Barton:
I guess I thought that I thought she would be changed. I thought that, you know, she wasn't in this situation anymore. And because she wasn't in it, that she would be changed. But she was not she had she had actually started a whole new like she had remarried. She was in a whole new family. And that was I mean, obviously that was really hurtful to to learn. Because I hadn't seen her in like a decade and it was as if you know, her life had just continued.Kristen Cerelli:
Does she have other children?Juliana Barton:
She does not that it was her stepchild.Kristen Cerelli:
Sorry to keep probing on this one but what were you expecting? A personality change? Were you expecting? Maternal warmth? Were you expecting strength? What were you expecting from her?Juliana Barton:
I was expecting those things I was definitely expecting. Or I should say, I had this idealized version, again of what I believed a mother figure wise. And I was really craving that. I was really just craving for someone to be that figure in my life. And so I had expected her to be like this responsible figure who would be able to help me guide young adulthood? But that is definitely not what it ended up being.Kristen Cerelli:
So are you at that point? Are you reactive to that? Are you? Do you act out? Do you get angry? Do you? What do you do?Juliana Barton:
Oh, yes, there were definitely a lot of situations, a lot of explosive situations in which I was very opinionated about her behavior, and my expectations for what I thought her change would be. And not even just with her, I mean, it was I had that kind of energy, if you will, with also my sister, and even my maternal grandparents, it was it was really challenging for me to sit there and I guess, not have this vision. Come True, like play out.Kristen Cerelli:
So you use your voice about it, you're using your speaking into what you want to the people around you.Juliana Barton:
Yes, I like I said definitely opinionated. I think that I was an advocate before I even knew what the word meant. But I don't think that I was doing it in a way that was conducive to building a relationship, I didn't really understand how to approach that. At the time,Kristen Cerelli:
does the light go off at some point for you with that, where you see that the way you are using your voice or the way you're advocating for yourself is not working? AndJuliana Barton:
yes, there's there's definitely, I wouldn't say it's any one particular light, there are definitely several lights that have gone off throughout the years. I think the biggest light, though, is learning to accept the things that I have no control over. And so what I mean by that is, there were a lot of things in these rigid environments that I that were beyond my control, but just seeing them going forward as like, now I'm in a situation, you know, where I am emancipated, and I'm navigating young adulthood, and there are still situations that are beyond my control. But realizing that I now had a choice in how I could react to things, realizing, accepting, accepting, accepting these nuances from from my family members that I'm still in contact with, as, as part of their character. And I guess, over time, that leads to I don't want to say liking them. But just just I think it leads to greater understanding, and not allowing it to affect me.Kristen Cerelli:
Where do you get this idea? You know, in a life where you hadn't had any choice, or any agency, or any power to change anything that was happening to you? Do you hear this on Oprah? Is this something you read in a book, this idea that you have the choice to choose your reaction to your circumstances? Or is it just trial and error?Juliana Barton:
I would definitely say it's the latter. I, I think over time, making so many mistakes, and just, I think I had this mentality of like, why why is why does this keep happening to me? What am I, what am I doing wrong? Why can't I move forward? Why why do I keep finding myself in these same situations? Like how do I get myself out of this? How do I make a change? And I think that after beginning to address my trauma by going to therapy, and really, for me, and this isn't for everybody, for me, understanding the science behind it, why we react certain ways and whatnot. So understanding that and then that led to me having an under standing of the things that I can't change, but that I do have the ability, again to choose how I react to situations.Kristen Cerelli:
So you asked a lot of questions, asked good questions you asked I, what I would think are the critical questions of most people's lives. But you found you found something that satisfied you as an answer. And tell me a little bit about the science do you mean the science of of trauma, the science of triggers? What in particular spoke to you,Juliana Barton:
I think all of that, really, to be honest, because I, you know, like I said, I had, I had gone through nearly two decades of trauma, and then I entered care. And none of this was addressed. And I thought that I could literally just, you know, keep shoving it down, like, put it away, I didn't want to talk about it, I think that even even if they had tried to address it, I probably would have been resistant, because I just I was like, it's done. You know, that's not my life anymore. And I really wanted to move on. And I had no idea how this stuff would later come back. And have an impact on my life, or even just my way of functioning for such a long period of time, how that would impact my life going forward. So, um, as the things that I was trying to shove down, started to impact my life, I didn't understand what was happening to me. And I was just how do I make sense of this. So going to, I started to go to therapy. And I was also working at a hospital at that time very interested in the medical field. And just reading the things that my therapist would would talk about, I think, being able to, to know the science behind that why people feel certain things, how the chemistry in the brain is working, and how it affects how, how you think and process things like cognitively. I think knowing that, and that process helped me to process then the things that were going on, because it wasn't just like, what's wrong with me sort of feeling.Kristen Cerelli:
It reminds me of something. You know, dr. Lyons has this heuristic of the month that he puts out on the T comm channel and the one this month was, you can't manage what you can't measure. And it's like, you can't manage your emotions. Without understanding how to measure them how to like look at them, and break them down and understand them on a deeper level or a more scientific level, you can't manage your life circumstances, if you don't have a measure of, I guess it keeps coming back to understanding if you don't have a measure of understanding how you got to where you are, why it all makes sense, in a way? Yes. It takes some of the mystery out of it, you know, like, it's almost seems like, correct me if I'm wrong, please, that there must have been so much mystery for you about like the whys and the why you?Juliana Barton:
Yes, you don't see, or at least at that time, it wasn't something that was very well spoken about. People didn't really share their feelings of any mental and behavioral health challenges they might have been experiencing. And so I didn't see anybody like myself, who was experiencing these things. And I thought that there was something wrong with me, it was very alienating, and, and I, I tried very much to hide it from people. So sitting there and gaining knowledge about it really helped me to make sense of it. And to understand that, that it wasn't just me. And that there was actually there are things that I don't know how to say. There are factors that cause these things to happen. But there are also things that you can do to to help with that,Kristen Cerelli:
which is agency. I think ultimately just knowing that you're you, you do have agency, you can shift things. You have to know that first before you can take the motivation that you were talking about before and actually channel it through the right portals and and let it fuel you. You mentioned when we talked last time that there was a period of a dark period where you were engaged in some behaviors that weren't very healthy and that Any event woke you out of that? Can you? Can you talk about those two things? Yeah.Juliana Barton:
So I think in my journey to sit there and gain control, I really actually did the opposite and lost control. I was engaged in some behaviors that were not conducive toward creating a better life for myself. And during that time, my sister had actually moved to LA. She was a paralegal before she had left, and she just people process trauma very differently, as I was more introverted with that she wore her trauma on her sleeve. And she really just wanted to be as far away as possible. I could understand that. And I wanted to help her. However I could. But to be honest, we did not have a great relationship with one another. I don't think that we were ever close growing up. But I think that that was something that maybe we were trying to work on. So she I helped her move out to LA. And we would stay in contact every once in a while. But I did not have the means to like go visit her or anything like that. Because I was I had a lot of financial challenges through throughout my life after leaving care. What ended up changing for me, though, was in 2015, she had a large mass that was growing on her neck. And she was also on Medicare L which is California's Medicaid. And it took over a year for them to approve a biopsy. Despite her conditioning, were singing throughout that entire time. As I'm sitting there and trying to help her I really honestly had no idea what it was what was going on. But I knew that she was getting sicker. And I was trying to go to school at the time as well. But I ended up leaving because I, you know, I was working more she couldn't financially support herself. And in 2016, early 2016 Finally they approved a biopsy and within 24 hours, you know, it came back that it was cancer. And sorry, because they had waited so long. It had metastasized. And so, to be honest, though, that that really wasn't the event that shook me. It was a it was a really eye opening. And and frankly earth shattering event but I I still was continuing my my bad behaviors. And lo despite that I went out there actually to, to be there for her surgery, just to help her after she had the surgery. And I was there. And I felt like for the first time really ever in our life. We had we had some quality time in which we were able to to address some of the some of the issues that we had had with our relationship and I really felt like it was a step forward to toward building that relationship even stronger. And we had created you know, we created plans that we were going to do. She would she would mail me postcards, of places that she wanted to visit like for us to visit together. And so we were looking forward to all these plans. But
there was a complication.Kristen Cerelli:
Just when it seems that the sisters might be able to start fresh, things take a terrible turn. In part two of my interview with Juliana Barton, we'll learn how she coped with another life and death situation. Join me for the rest of Juliana story on the next episode of shift shift blue.Tim Fall:
shift shift Bloom is made possible in part by the prayed Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the well being of all through the use of personalized timely interventions and provider of online training in the T comm tools T calm is transformational collaborative outcomes management a comprehensive framework for improving the effectiveness of helping systems through Person Centered Care online at prayed foundation.org and AT T comma conversations dot org And by the Center for Innovation in Population Health at the University of Kentucky email@example.com y.edu