Alumni Story

Seeds of Hope

I am Christine Briceno and I am an alumnus of Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento. I am a mom, active in my community, and have had a nearly 20 year career with the State of California. Recently I accepted a CEA position as a Director at the California State Teachers Retirement System. I was humbled and so grateful for this opportunity that I began to reflect on the journey that had brought me here.

Turning 40 a few months ago, may also have slightly had me reflecting as well… but needless to say, I knew it was time to come back to the place that gave me the seeds of hope that I was able to sow into the life I am so grateful to have today. 

In November 1988, my life changed forever.  I didn’t know that it would be such a pivotal time; I only knew that my world as I knew it was turned upside down. Having been used to a world of chaos, instability, abuse and lack of control of my own body; I was in a strange and rigid environment with no control.  I was 16, and had two sisters.  One older, age 18 and the other younger age 11.  My older sister had moved out of our house and out of our father’s control.  As a result, his sexual and physical abuse was centered solely on me, and after the worst, most horrifying night of my life, I decided I had had enough and I could not take another day. I made the decision to call the authorities.  It was the single most difficult phone call of my life. In a blur of 12 hours, recanting the secrets I had held since my earliest memories, I was placed in the back of a police car and escorted to the Children’s Receiving Home.  My little sister was already there having been pulled from school, and was hysterical and confused. That is when the weight of my choice hit me.  I was terrified. 

Filled with questions no one seemed to know the answers to and ashamed of my condition and embarrassed at the probing of strangers.  Although everyone kept telling me I was finally “safe”, what did that mean?  For me, I was no longer in my familiar, although humble, surroundings. I was being prodded by a doctor I didn’t know, I had to be deloused, and treated for issues that I was able to cover up and ignore before…. And worst of all, my little sister was going through it too. I took this very hard since it had been my mission and responsibility for as long as I could remember to keep her safe. I hated where I was, I hated the situation, and as nice as everyone was, I just wanted to go home where I could predict my surroundings (however horrific) and find comfort again in the things I knew, even if it came with horrible pain and unspeakable shame. 

So much happened in the short three weeks I was at the Children’s Receiving Home.  Slowly I was deprogrammed and began to understand what the next steps would bring. Through it all I was accompanied by a staff person that let me just grieve my loss, shared their own experiences and told me what to expect through the harsh realities of the family court system. I am sure the staff never even realized the impact they had on my life and probably countless lives of other children.  An impact that even today I am benefiting from. 

It was at CRH that I discovered that there were people out there who never had to experience what I did.  The horror I lived was not “normal”. I also learned I am important as an individual, not just a thing.  I am intelligent and it was at CRH that I was acknowledged for my strength for the first time. I was given clean clothes; a safe place to shower, and a clean bed that I could know for a fact would not be visited in the middle of the night. I was given time to cry, to be alone, and forced into routines that, although I didn’t recognize it then, gave me comfort in the sense that it was predictable and stable. I was praised, even called pretty for the first time.  Just a small passing comment by a volunteer; I don’t even remember their name, but I remember how I felt.  I realized then, I wasn’t invisible and maybe I could survive this. I could rise to be more than a victim.

The Children’s Receiving Home gave me a shelter in more ways than a structure.  It gave me solace, gave me comfort and patience… even when I acted out… in a way that allowed me to grieve, but also take control of my body and my heart.  Most importantly it gave a girl like me the seeds of hope to grow a future. I am proof that the effort is not fruitless, and in fact is successful, and makes a lifetime of difference.