February 4, 2014

Our Neighbors: Stronger today than yesterday

By R. Scott Belzer
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — To call London resident Elizabeth D. Jarvis, 26, merely a survivor wouldn’t be as much of a misnomer as it is an understatement.

For the former half of her life, Jarvis underwent an ordeal many know of by name alone. She endured trauma people read about in books or delve into on television, but rarely encounter face to face.

In the simplest of terms, Jarvis survived foster care – along with all the baggage associated with it – and came out a balanced, ambitious, creative, even chipper adult.

Originally from Dinuba, Cal., Jarvis has led a roaming life all over the country. Her stops have included North Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Mississippi, and even Nevada.

Jarvis attributes this consistent change to her mother, whose own personal problems with drugs and money led her into a life of prostitution. Jarvis’s father proved to be on equal, if not worse terms.

Her home life became nothing more than a constant source of abuse. One account included leaving her in the care of a stranger and leaving the state, which legally counts as abandonment. After her mother settled in Clay County, W. Va., Jarvis decided enough was enough.

“I put myself into foster care when I was 13,” Jarvis said. “I knew my home situation wasn’t good. I told my English teacher what was going on and I was put into foster care that same day.”

As a ward of the state, Jarvis first had to live in a group home specializing in self-harm as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

“I had never drank – I was 13. I had never done drugs. I had never harmed myself,” Jarvis said. “But they didn’t have anywhere for me, so I was put into an at-risk youth center, which taught me things I never should have known. You had to grow up quick.”

In between five foster homes Jarvis lived in, she was placed in yet another at-risk youth center. As for why she couldn’t settle into foster life, Jarvis can only cite reasons that sound all too familiar in books and film.

Take, for example, the first home Jarvis was placed into. According to her account, the home seemed more like a place where kids were allowed to stay only if they put in their fair share of chores. The second home wanted a slightly older sister for their younger children – not a teenager. The third adoptive parent – a single mother – only ignited Jarvis’s issues with her biological mother. The fourth was a combination of them all.

When there was nowhere else for Jarvis to go, her boyfriend – who would eventually become her husband – and his parents decided to give her a proper home. She was 15 years old.

Presently, you wouldn’t be able to tell Jarvis has been through so much. She graduated from high school, has attended two colleges, and earned her associate’s degree in business management.

Her marriage to a military man afforded her opportunity to explore the US as well as her own passions.

“I was born to be a military spouse,” Jarvis said. “The volunteer work, the moving around, the other spouses on base – I absolutely loved military life.”

In addition to currently being an office manager for Professional Home Health in Corbin, Jarvis also independently runs her own photography company specializing in wedding and portraits. Her friends and acquaintances are baffled at her resiliency.

“People always tell me they’re really shocked and never would have guessed,” Jarvis said. “They say I’m so well adjusted.”

Her two highest priorities in life have come to be Community Christian Church, where she is an active member, as well as her cat, Squishy, and her two huskies, Bailey and Akina.

When prodded about her constant upbeat demeanor, Jarvis is quick to credit her effervescence to a single source.

“I will say I have a great ability to just ‘roll with it.’ But honestly, it’s all Jesus. It really is,” Jarvis said. “I wasn’t as pretty of a person before I got saved. I’ve had therapy and many people try to help me throughout my life,  but it never really made an impact until I got saved. When I start to feel sad or lonely, I can always rely on that relationship.”