JUST TWO YEARS AGO THIS CHRISTMAS, Sarah was in a dark place. She had sent her six-year-old daughter, Lylee, to live with her mom in Texas, and CPS had just taken Alize, her 6-month-old. “They literally ripped her from my arms,” Sarah told us. “It was like one of those scenes from the movies. You’re on your knees and you’re screaming, and then she was screaming. It was awful. It broke me.”
“They literally ripped her from my arms... It was awful. It broke me.”
At the same time, Sarah was pregnant again. “I found out I was pregnant with Royce when Alize was only four months old. I wasn’t planning to keep him, but I made an appointment twice and both times my ride fell through.”
Spiraling from the shock of another pregnancy and the loss of another daughter, Sarah stopped paying her rent and was quickly evicted. “When you’re in that dark place and you don’t have all the tools I have now, you don’t have support, nobody believes in you, nobody wants to help you anymore, you’re just stuck and you want to die… that’s what I wanted to do. So, I ran off. I was losing my mind.”
Four weeks of burying her grief in reckless drug use brought her to her knees. “I was so broken. CPS stopped letting me even see Alize; I wasn’t doing the UAs they were requiring. That’s when I reached out to my mom, and ultimately my sister told me about the program here.”
Sarah entered UGM LIFE Recovery at the Center for Women and Children in May 2020. Her son was born two weeks before she came. CPS allowed her to keep him because both mom and child were clean from drugs at the time of the birth. As Sarah and Royce got settled at the Center, Sarah’s mom flew up with Lylee and helped her move in. “So, I had my baby and my six-year-old… and my whole recovery to figure out.”
This scenario was nothing new to UGM staff. From every department, both staff and volunteers rushed to encircle Sarah and her little family. Welcomed into a safe and healing community, Sarah was finally able to rest. Her life had been chaos since childhood, and at 14, a horrific crime committed against her sent her plummeting into a world so dark she’d lost all hope of living a functional life.
Resting, going to classes, being fed three warm meals a day… Over time, Sarah’s eyes were opening to her own potential. “I was learning things I’d never heard before in my whole life. There’s parenting classes and then everything you’re learning in program. It’s like heart surgery. I tackled every single issue I’ve had the biggest problems with in my life: the drugs, the sex, the relationships being unhealthy. It’s totally holistic.
“I gained stability here, being at one address for so long. I gained sobriety time, and I gained parenting skills. They come alongside you and teach you things hand in hand. If your child is having a meltdown in the hallways, they will sit with you and bear your child with you and talk you through the whole thing. And that’s an everyday thing.”
“I gained stability here, being at one address for so long. I gained sobriety time, and I gained parenting skills.”
As she healed, Sarah worked faithfully with CPS to prove she was changing. She wanted to complete her family, get Alize back. “I had such a tough case. At one point, I had no doubt I would never get her back. But that’s the one biggest thing they teach us here, is that God loves us. He is so forgiving and loving, and He wants good things for us, and putting your family together is a good thing, so I took my faith to the next level and trusted Him.” For a year, she had supervised visits with Alize. At first, it was once a week for two hours with two case workers watching the whole time. After many months, the visits were less closely monitored, and in the summer of 2021, they moved quickly from unsupervised weekend visits to full custody.
“...God loves us. He is so forgiving and loving, and He wants good things for us, and putting your family together is a good thing, so I took my faith to the next level and trusted Him.”
“There are girls here who are going through custody issues and my case gives them hope. If I can do this, anybody can. It’s just doing the next right thing, and the next right thing.”
Today, Sarah has completed the first four phases of her recovery program and has been hired at her business practicum. She is applying for affordable housing and childcare, which are waitlisted throughout the region, and while she waits, she remains surrounded by loving support at the Center.
“I feel like I have family here. I know I could call anyone and they would be there. I’ve gained a mentor, I’ve gained an incredible support team, and not only that, but the residents—we all help each other with our kids and they’ve grown together. Relationships have been built in this house.”
As an added gift, while Sarah has been working diligently to be the best mom she can be, her own mom has extended her friendship and repaired many of Sarah’s childhood wounds. “We are best friends now,” says Sarah. “She is literally texting me as we speak.”
When asked about her future plans, Sarah told us, “I know my future is big. ‘Big’ to me is helping one other woman who is even close to where I came from. I have a purpose for my life, and this is only the beginning.
“I want to say thank you, not only to the people who volunteer, but to the people who donate, because without them my life would not be possible. If this place didn’t exist, I don’t even want to know where I’d be today. I’d probably be dead from overdosing.”
“I want to say thank you, not only to the people who volunteer, but to the people who donate, because without them my life would not be possible.”
Bringing children home; helping families heal; and providing rest, education and resources to impoverished parents is holy work. It is work we cannot do apart from the grace and love of Jesus Christ, and it is certainly work that cannot be accomplished without a community of helping hands. By the grace of God and the compassion of many, Sarah, Lylee, Alize and Royce are warm, safe and together this holiday season.
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