Removed From Her Own Mother at Age 5, Alisha Burch Becomes a Second Mother to New Moms
While construction workers lug hammers and wrenches in metal tool boxes to erect new houses, Alisha Burch often hauls an equally heavy load — her traumatic childhood memories — in her mental toolbox as she helps build new parenting skills in homes throughout the Antelope Valley.
When she meets a new mother enrolling in the Antelope Valley Partners for Health (AVPH) Healthy Families America (HFA) Home Visiting program funded by First 5 LA, Burch often sees parts of her own past reflected in her client’s current situation, which may include struggles with poverty, stress and trauma as they raise a newborn.
“Sometimes, my client’s reality was once my past and without disclosing my life story to them, I use that to connect with them." -Alisha Burch
“I have an understanding of what some of the families I serve have to deal with on a daily basis,” said Burch, who works as a Family Support Specialist with the Child and Family Guidance Center in Palmdale. “Sometimes, my client’s reality was once my past and without disclosing my life story to them, I use that to connect with them. To help them have a better chance at life — for themselves and their children.”
“Life Is Tough, Isn’t It?”
When she was 5 years old, a cousin invited Burch and her brother to an aunt’s home. During the walk there, the cousin told them they were going to be taken from her mom and put in foster care. The two siblings tried to run away, Burch recalled. But she was caught by the cousin, who threatened to beat her up if her brother did not stop running. So her brother stopped. When the two entered her aunt’s home with heads hung low, Burch recalled, her aunt laughed and said: “Life is tough, isn’t it?”
“Being removed from my mother caused me trauma because I was never able to be reunited with her,” recalled Burch, who said she was removed for neglect and abuse due to her mother’s drug and alcohol addiction. “I missed her hugs, her kisses, even her promises, although she hardly came through with half the things she said she would do. Whenever she did remember, it felt like a Christmas moment for me. I believe her addictions at the time won over the need to fight to get us back.”
Not long afterward, Burch and her brother were removed from her aunt’s home and placed in the care of a non-relative, Ms. Anne Vivian Rease, whom Burke said raised the two children with “a lot of love and patience.”
Then, when Burch was 14, she found Rease dead in her bed.
“It all pretty much went downhill,” recalled Burch, who faced many more hardships as she was bounced between group homes and foster homes. “I suffered in school and had difficulty keeping and maintaining friends. The hardest was dealing with foster parents who would tell me that I was only a ‘pay check’ to them.”
Despite these hardships, Rease’s positive influence stayed with Burch.
“I always knew in my heart as a child that I would have to give back, because of what I received from Annie,” she said. “I knew that there are so many who suffer. I wanted to give back and make an impact like she did for me.”