Krystal and Armando are hardworking, caring members of the Ash Fork community.
They own a business and impress those who meet them with all they do to make Ash Fork a better place.
“I want to give back to this community and help it to have a better reputation,” Armando said.
The couple made it their goal to be positive influences and advocate for people living in Ash Fork, which is about 50 miles west of Flagstaff.
Their feelings about Ash Fork have come full circle, primarily due to struggles they had while transitioning to the area. More specifically, a situation led to the Department of Child Safety taking their daughter into care.
When this happened, Krystal and Armando were devastated.
“I could not hold my baby everyday,” remembered Krystal, “I could not make her feel better when she was sick.I couldn’t give her my kisses.”
As the case progressed, they tried to accomplish what was needed to reunify with their daughter. However,the couple was told on several occasions they needed to move out of Ash Fork to gain more access to community resources and natural supports.
Although navigating the child welfare system can be difficult while living in a rural community, Krystal and Armando felt connected to the people in Ash Fork. They did not want to move.They wanted their daughter to come home to the community she knew.
DCS provided some help with the tasks in their case plan, but Armando and Krystal had to figure out a lot on their own.
“One of the biggest barriers to us living in this rural town was the financial hardship.” Krystal stressed. “It was a financial hardship trying to find housing, money for gas, fixing the home we found to make it livable, finding employment -- while meeting all of the system requirements for reunification.”
As an additional challenge, Ash Fork is located far from many required services. The family needed to travel on a weekly basis to complete the tasks on their case plan.
Krystal and Armando felt overwhelmed. They worried they would not accomplish the tasks required to reunify with their daughter.
Fortunately, during this process,they met someone at court who recommended support from the Family Involvement Center.
“I agreed at first, but then was not sure that it was a good idea because we had so many things on our plate already,” Krystal said. “We had no idea how we would add one more thing.”
Although the couple considered turning down the help, they met with a FIC Peer Partner. They left the first meeting impressed and decided it was necessary to get the guidance offered by the Family Involvement Center.
“[They] helped us with resources,information, understanding terms people were saying to us that made no sense at first, and spent time helping us to understand the process,” Krystal said.
Using FIC’s assistance, Krystal and Armando secured the required services, including parenting classes and rides to court
“[FIC was] there to help,explain, calm us down, and talk it through any time we needed to talk,” Krystal said. “Most importantly [our FIC Peer Partner] gave us hope by shining a light on the things that were positive and going well.”
It took about seven months, but Armando and Krystal eventually reunified with their daughter.
“The whole experience gave us a whole lot of tools we didn’t have before,” Krystal noted.“We will still use these tools every day. We are so lucky we are living a better life.”
Currently, Krystal and Armando are creating a much-needed service in Ash Fork. They fix cars for a reasonable price, so community members struggling with lack of transportation have access to affordable vehicles.
“We would love to give back to our community what we learned, as there are many people in the same position we were in, and we want to help in any way we can,” Armando said.
Because of the work the Family Involvement Center performs in rural and urban parts of Arizona, more families can live the lives they want and give back to their communities.