Her two sons were killed in a shed fire, and her two daughters have been placed in a relative's custody by the state.
But Brenda McMinn insists she is not a bad mother.Her daughters, ages 11 and 13, were taken into protective custody after her sons Levi and Russell, ages 10 and 7, died last week after they set a shed on fire while playing with matches.
On Thursday, a judge ruled the girls would not be returned to McMinn's custody. Social workers told the judge that McMinn had a methamphetamine addiction and a past conviction for child abuse.
McMinn, 36, says she has reached a low point in her life, but she will fight for the custody of her daughters, to kick meth and to convince people she is not a bad mother.
"I'm not neglectful," she said. "I'm just poor. I didn't have anything for my children."
Two weeks before the fatal fire, the Division of Child and Family Services began investigating neighbors' complaints that the children were not being fed or cared for.
But McMinn said her neighbors simply did not understand her boys, who grew up in the country.
"It was hard for them to understand they weren't allowed here or there," she said.
Police said there was plenty of food in McMinn's kitchen.
She said she was sick in bed the night of the fire and didn't know where her sons got the matches and lighters to start the fire.
"They were boys being boys," she said, adding that her son Levi was fascinated with fire.
Neighbors stood by their stories of neglect, some pointing to McMinn's criminal past as evidence.
Court documents in Fremont County, Idaho, said that in 1994 McMinn went on a drunken rampage, striking her then-9-year-old girl in the head and face and leaving her on the highway.
The same night, McMinn did several thousand dollars worth of damage to the house of Steve Weekes, the documents said.
McMinn pleaded guilty to a felony child-abuse charge, malicious injury to property and driving under the influence of alcohol. She served six months in the Idaho Women's Correction Center in Pocatello.
More recently, McMinn was stopped by Roy police last month and methamphetamine allegedly was found in her car. She faces a preliminary hearing on a felony charge in 2nd District Court on Tuesday.
DCFS spokesman Randy Ripplinger said for McMinn to get custody of her daughters, she'll have to prove to a judge that she's clear of drugs and can hold a steady job.
Charlene Bingham, McMinn's friend and neighbor, said she'll help her do that.