North Dakota Teen Fights To Get Custody Of Siblings After Parents Die

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Losing parents when you’re young can be a very devastating situation. An 18-year-old in North Dakota lost both of her parents in less than two years and saw her two younger siblings placed in foster care. Rather than blindly accept this negativity, she decided to fight for her right to keep her family together by trying to get custody of her siblings.

The Heartbreaking Situation
MacKenzie Jackson of West Fargo, North Dakota knew what it felt like to lose a parent. Her mother, Rebecca, passed away at the very young age of 39. Jackson was just 16 at the time. Rebecca was suffering from amphetamine addiction and had received gastric bypass surgery to help her lose excessive weight.

After her mother passed away, her father’s health took a serious decline. He was already suffering from kidney failure and the loss of his wife hit him hard. As a result, MacKenzie took on the role of both mother and father for her siblings, Meagan and Spencer.

While her father worked through his failing kidney, she focused on school, bought groceries, cooked dinner, and helped get her siblings to school, doctor’s appointments, and important school events. When she was 18, the unthinkable happened: her father passed away. Her siblings were already in foster care at the time, as her father continued to drink heavily in spite of his failing kidney.

MacKenzie had lost both her mother and her father at an incredibly young age and wasn’t ready to see her sister and brother taken from her. As a result, she decided to take the fight to the courts and see if she could get custody of her brother and sister.

Her Fight
Jackson, who was attending cosmetology school at the time, decided that their family needed to stay together no matter what. So she quit cosmetology school to focus on getting her family back. She was quoted as saying “Material things are important, but what I wanted to show them is that feeling of love from your family and being there for them is most important.”

Acting quickly, she moved out of her parents’ old house in order to get her life back on track. She used GoFundMe to raise over $10,000 to help relocate and get her family’s bills and debt in order. One caring person actually offered to pay her rent for a full year. Family members also stepped up to help MacKenzie, including a cousin who was willing to watch the children when necessary.

The Result
MacKenzie petitioned the court for custody on February 5, 2015 and had her hearing on February 19 of the same year. She made her arguments, presented her case, discussed financial matters, and impressed the court into giving her custody of her two siblings. There was a lot of emotions running wild when the announcement was given, but MacKenzie was happy simply to keep her family together.

Stories like this are a good reminder of all we can accomplish when we do our best and fight for what we believe. MacKenzie was able to keep her family together and help her siblings avoid the kind of problematic behavior that had unfortunately plauged her parents’ lives.


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