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Domestic violence shelter helping battle foster care crisis in Middle Tennessee

LaQuentra Norton, domestic violence survivor (WZTV){p}{/p}
LaQuentra Norton, domestic violence survivor (WZTV)

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Tennessee’s battered foster care system was recently named the most unstable in the entire United States.

Instability is determined by how many homes kids live in. Instability also leads to prison and sex trafficking.

A domestic violence shelter in Williamson County is trying to do something about these awful statistics.

E.L.I.’s House in Williamson County is breaking new ground in domestic violence care.

They allow the victim’s children to stay with their mom while offering a stay that aims for nothing short of total transformation.

Ajah Cavers coos over her baby Uri at E.L.I.’s house where all three kids live with Mom; A true sanctuary after living in hell on earth.

“Because my daughter ate his [past abuser] chicken sandwich, his $1 dollar chicken sandwich in the freezer, he got upset at me, and he choked me," Cavers said. "And I looked up and my daughter was just sitting there staring. Seeing my daughter, basically seeing me on the ground being choked. I just couldn’t do it anymore."

Those are the kind of stories you will hear in this beautiful farmhouse in Williamson County -stories that just don’t match the peaceful environment.

LaQuentra Norton feeds the chickens every day and plays with the newborn kittens. She remembers her boyfriend holding a gun to her pregnant belly and hitting her as many as 30 times a day.

“So I was pregnant the whole time," Norton says. "And it was just awful. It was dangerous...Just days that I thought, 'God, could you just please get me through the day,' or me just praying. I wouldn’t say the wrong thing or, you know, do the wrong thing."

At E.L.I.’s house you can work through that awful past, surrounded by love and your children.

“We want to help be a solution and an answer to the foster care crisis in Middle Tennessee," says E.L.I.’s house founder Jenny Rustioni. "And so we want to keep the Moms with the children and keep the children out of the foster care system if we can."

If you don’t think that’s important, just run it by Ajah.

"There’s not a lot of places out here that allow you to go with your kids," Ajah said. "And I have three.

Dennis Ferrier asks, “How would you feel about being separated from them?"

"We wouldn't do it," Ajah replies. "You’d rather be on the street than be away from your kids?"

The other thing that really strikes you about E.L.I’.s house is that it is a two-year program. This program is a cure that allows these women to reconsider everything.

Listen to what happens when a nightmare becomes a dream.

"I know that they can have the best life possible," Norton says. "Because I’m going to stick to this program. The opportunity Jenny has given me is literally life-changing. She has been such a blessing and all the other staff."

And Ajah starts a new job this week.

“Like I’m about to go to Vanderbilt," said Ajah Cavers. "So that’s a big thing for me like to be a CMA, but I'm going to go back for my LPN. I’m going back for my Rn, I’m going to do what everyone told me that I couldn’t do."

This is an expensive journey, but somehow E.L.I.’s house keeps finding people who believe in the mission.

And whether it's learning how to make sauerkraut or studying for a GED or goat wrangling. The dream moves forward.

“And the way that the community has stepped up to be a solution to the foster care crisis in Middle Tennessee..Just moves me," said Rustioni. "You know, we can’t do this alone. And we don’t have to, because the community wants to do something about it."

E.L.I.”s house recently accepted its fifth resident, and the capacity is currently full.

If you would like to help in some way go here where you can give or volunteer.

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