Eighteen schools, 12 foster homes and one young girl who was afraid to trust others: That appears to be the story of Katelynn Mansfield, who has been in the custody of the Department of Human Services on three occasions since the age of 5.
But it’s only one part of the story of the Oklahoma City teenager, who wants to use creative writing as a way to rise above her troubles.
With a mother who was unable to care for her and five other half-siblings, Katelynn, now 15, was left in the care of her father – also unable to care for her because of drug addiction. In 2015, he met a woman, Brooklyn Weatherly, whom Katelynn now refers to as “mom.” To this day, Weatherly remains a stable mother figure in Katelynn’s life.
Katelynn said Weatherly gave her father an ultimatum: the drugs or her.
“I wasn’t enough motivation for him to quit,” Katelynn said. But Weatherly was, at least for a while. Although Katelynn was proud of her father’s progress, she couldn’t help but doubt her own self-worth. If she wasn’t a good enough reason for her father to stop using drugs and stay out of legal trouble, then how should she measure her own worth? Katelynn said she would never blame her self-esteem issues and low confidence only on her father, but these issues arose after his multiple incarcerations.
He was able to stay clean for several months before relapsing. Eventually, he was sent to prison, and Katelynn went back into the system she had come to hate.
According to Katelynn, the one outlet she had to help her cope was writing.
“(Writing) gives me a way to escape loneliness, to connect without really connecting,” she said.
However, before Katelynn could become too comfortable with her newfound coping mechanism, it was taken from her when she said a foster mother raided her room and invaded her innermost thoughts. Ever since that incident, Katelynn refused to write anything of personal significance because she no longer felt safe doing so.
After feeling disrespected, Katelynn found that she took the same approach to writing as she did when it was time to move to another home. She refrained from getting too close. “I don’t want to get too comfortable somewhere and it not work out,” she said. As Katelynn went from foster home to foster home, she refrained from making any connections that would last longer than her stay.
But now, in a stable home, she has changed her mind about not writing.
Katelynn said Brooklyn Weatherly, although now broken up with her father, is currently her guardian. She enjoys being with the woman she calls “mom,” and is more comfortable and happier than she ever thought possible.
And she will begin to write again, perhaps a blog.
“I want people to know my story, if that helps other kids who are in my situation gain strength,” she said.