Kids Ask Dr. Phil: Tyerra

Kids Ask Dr. Phil: Tyerra
Dr. Phil has advice for a 24-year-old woman who has been raising her siblings since age 13.
"My life changed dramatically when I was 12 years old," remembers Tyerra. "My father passed away. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Raising my brothers and sisters, cooking, cleaning, I would definitely say I lost my childhood."

She dreams of a career in the medical field, but says it's impossible with so many mouths to feed. In addition to her four siblings, she has an 8-year-old daughter to care for. "When I was 15, I became pregnant. My mother was already pregnant. Child services felt like my mother's boyfriend was a negative influence, and so they removed all the children from her custody."

Tyerra didn't finish school, and moved around with her daughter. "When I turned 19, I had my own apartment, so I began the process of bringing my brothers and sisters home. I refused to take no for an answer," she says firmly.

[AD]When Tyerra's mom became pregnant a seventh time with Justin, who has Down syndrome, Tyerra stepped up to take care of him. "I fought to the depths of hell to bring everybody home, but it's frustrating for me because sometimes I feel like I'm working by myself," she admits. "Dr. Phil, how can I create a life for myself and still keep my family together?"
"Why has it been so important to you to keep your family together?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Because we're all we have. We're brothers and sisters," Tyerra replies.

Dr. Phil runs down a list of all the children in Tyerra's care: Brandon, 18; Jonathan, 19; Tiffany, 17; Justin, 5 and Asiana, 8. She also has a cousin and her two kids living with her. "You've got a lot of mouths to feed. What do you do for a job?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]When Tyerra says that she waitresses, Dr. Phil observes, "So you're up at 6:00 in the morning and working until midnight ... what do you think about some of these other people getting a little more active on the job market? Because it just gets awful easy for people to let you take care of everything."

Tyerra needs to come up with a plan so that everyone in her family can work or add to the household finances. "You've got to be assertive enough to require these able-bodied people to contribute in some way so you don't have to do it all yourself," Dr. Phil implores her.

"I do need help at times," she admits. "Sometimes I want to say, 'I can't.' ... My motto in life is, 'I have to.'" When Dr. Phil suggests that her siblings could get jobs, she argues that she doesn't want them to lose their childhood like she did.

"What we're saying is get a job and bring home some money. They're not going to lose their childhood. They're 18, 19, 17. They've been through childhood, now it's time to start putting some meat on the table, bringing home some bread," Dr. Phil stresses. "You will help them get some dignity and some pride by being an active, contributing member of this family. Parenting is more than putting a roof over someone's head. Parenting is about giving them the values, the drive, the motivation and the belief that they need to become productive citizens. And if you require that of them, they will rise to that challenge, and you will have done a better job of parenting than you're already doing."



Acknowledging that Tyerra put her professional aspirations on hold to take care of her family, Dr. Phil says, "We know that one of your dreams is a career in the medical profession ... When the National Institute of Technology heard about your story, they wanted to help you out." Tyerra will receive a a full scholarship to earn her certification to work in the medical field of her choice. Included in the program is a job placement before she graduates.

Dr. Phil brings Dana Martin, the president of NIT Long Beach, on stage to present Tyerra with a certificate. As Tyerra cries in shock, Mr. Martin announces, "You are very deserving of help, and I am certainly proud, on behalf of National Institute of Technology and Corinthian Colleges to present you with this full scholarship."

Dr. Phil has another surprise for Tyerra. He introduces Matt Coffin of, who explains, "Normally, helps people pay less on their monthly bills, and we were so touched by this situation that we actually decided to pay off all your bills for the next year: $15,000."




Dr. Phil brings Tyerra's two youngest siblings, Justin and Tiffany, and her daughter, Asiana, on stage. "I know that you guys never got to stand and attend your father's funeral. You never got to go to the gravesite to go to his resting place. We contacted, told them about your story, and they have offered to fly all seven of you to New York and put you up in a fabulous hotel there," Dr. Phil announces to the stunned family. "You're going to be there for several days and get to visit your father's gravesite for the first time."

Dr. Phil leads Tyerra and her family backstage for yet another surprise. "We also thought that given that you have a rattletrap car, that we would just give you a new one."

"Everyone at Hyundai was touched by your incredible story," says company rep Ed Bradley. "So on behalf of Hyundai Motor America and all Hyundai dealers nationwide, we wanted to make sure that you could get to school and not have to worry about it." He presents Tyerra with the keys to a Hyundai Tucson.

"I'm ecstatic!" Tyerra says, sitting in her new car.