I'll never forget the date: It was June 7, 2007, when I was sent to jail for possession of illegal drugs, and child welfare services picked up my daughters, Shlai and Kalawya, from daycare. At that time, Shlai was 3 years old and Kalawya was not yet a year old. After a short stay in jail, I tried to regain custody of my children. Child welfare services kept telling me to get clean of substance abuse, but I wasn't ready. My daughters were placed in foster care. Tired of my life as I had been living it, I went to a rehab center in my hometown of Nashville, TN, and they referred me to a rehab center in Alabama.

 

 

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When I completed the treatment program, I had nowhere to go and needed to find a place to live where I could have my daughters with me. The rehab center staff found the Renewal House residential recovery program for mothers and their children in Nashville. Families at Renewal House live in individual apartments while the mother completes a comprehensive program integrating recovery, parenting, and life skills development and employment, and the children receive early intervention and substance abuse prevention services. I was admitted to Renewal House in June 2008 and, through a safety placement arrangement with child welfare services, my daughters came to live with me there.

I continue to use everything I learned during my 9 months' stay at Renewal House—from positive discipline for my children to living on a budget. It was the requirement to have "family time" each evening—an hour when mothers and children are expected to stay in their own apartments and enjoy uninterrupted time together—that was the greatest benefit to my recovery. To this day, we continue to set aside family time, and that's what keeps me from going back and using drugs. I work two jobs, we live in a home I am buying, and I'm engaged to be married. When I ask my daughters how they would describe their lives today, Shlai says "awesome" and Kalawya says "fun." My daughters are my energy. They have been with me through the good and the bad. I am grateful to the foster care family that took good care of my children, and we continue to stay in touch. Ever since my daughters were returned to me from foster care, I've maintained custody and have had no further involvement with child welfare services. I would never, ever do anything to lose them again.

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