Jewel's delicate features offer no hint of the frightening experiences she has been through. Even now, having emerged from her hellish six-year odyssey, Jewel's voice cracks with pain as she and her mother, Bonnie, tell the story of her adolescent years.
Jewel began using methamphetamine in sixth grade, and by the next year she was engaging in self-mutilation. "It was so alarming to see the changes in her and not know why they were happening," says her mother. Jewel's parents took her to a children's psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed with depression.
Jewel began running away. "We were panic-stricken that she would not come back," says Bonnie. Because California had no comparable service, they took Jewel to a locked-down mental health facility in Nevada. "It was a huge decision to send her so far away. But we felt it was the only way to keep her safe." Jewel resisted fiercely, and underwent terrifying restraints. "It took me a year to buckle under and do what they told me," she says.
But her saga was far from over.
Jewel came home, ran away again, and was immediately returned to the Nevada facility. Yet her parents felt strongly that residential care was not the solution. "It was difficult for her to be away, and for us to have her gone," explains Bonnie. "Plus, we knew that the longer she spent with other troubled kids, the more she would absorb their problems."
Then the family learned of the Wraparound services of Uplift Family Services. "We said, 'Services in the home? Wow, is that possible?'" The team meeting planted some hope. "They offered services I wouldn't have thought to ask for," says Bonnie, "like morning wake-ups. Our family specialist came and read the dictionary to her!"
"The first good thing was having someone to talk to," says Jewel. "I didn't feel alone." The family specialist helped Jewel learn to express her feelings. "If I went to school, I talked about how it was. And if I didn't go to school, I talked about that." The two took outings together, and Jewel began to appreciate her own interests more. Gradually, she made new choices. "I dumped most of the friends who weren't good for me and made new ones who were."
Still, Jewel had grave relapses, including a drug-induced psychosis for which she was hospitalized. Those hallucinations, she relates shakily, "were like nothing I can explain." Today Jewel attends recovery meetings and has been clean for more than six months. "I know I can't use drugs," she says with resolve. "I don't ever want to be back there."
Jewel has graduated from high school and works two jobs. She is planning for college and a career as a social worker, probation officer or detective. "If Wraparound hadn't been there, I don't think I'd be where I am," she says, "off drugs, off the street, having my diploma. It is so good to know you are not alone."
"She had a whole family to talk to," reflects Bonnie, "but we were not who she needed to talk to. Now I'm just thankful that Wraparound was there to play a role that parents sometimes can't."