By Kamee Bissell, former Counselor in Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall
Many of the women who apply for our LIFE Recovery Program at Anna Ogden Hall have lost custody of their children. The addictive lifestyle they have been living has brought destruction to the family on so many levels.
For most, it is a single-parent home without a great deal of support. Because of their choices, most of their family and friends have given up hope for change, leaving the parent feeling abandoned and overwhelmed with responsibilities. The women generally have no one to rely on but themselves. They enter our program driven by the fear of losing their children or of not regaining custody, desperately wanting change.
On average 8 out of 10 moms entering our program have Child Protective Services involved in their lives. Their children have been placed in foster care or will be placed there, or the women have been required or court-mandated to find a recovery program.
Upon entering our program, mothers with children will spend approximately 10 hours per week on requirements from CPS, added to their already full schedule of 40 hours a week of program at Anna Ogden Hall. Most moms have 2 to 3 visits per week with their children, up to 3 hours per visit depending on their location. They are also required to take anger management classes and “Early Years,” a program that teaches developmental stages of children.
Some moms may have community service to complete. And in order to ensure a mom is staying clean and sober, she will complete random drug testing as another piece of the accountability process.
With involvement from so many different agencies, we need a way to communicate well. That’s where the Family Team Decision Meeting comes in. This meeting brings all agencies together to discuss the progress and offer recommendations to the mom.
Imagine for a moment being a single mom, trying to meet all the requirements of the courts and CPS. It’s a heavy load. For some, the task is so overwhelming that they give up, return to their old lifestyle and lose custody of their children.
But it isn’t impossible. Moms who are able to enter our program find immediate support. Our Children's Program Coordinator works with the parent and CPS to create a schedule that helps the mom manage all the moving pieces. Once the schedule is created, moms are able to have a clear picture of their responsibilities.
The Children's Program Coordinator works with on-site staff to create a program that is manageable for the mom. Many times we’ll lighten their burden by allowing them to reduce their class load and extend the length of the program. This helps them fulfill all the outside mandates, which can last from 12 to 15 months depending on the case.
Because of the supportive atmosphere in Women’s Recovery, many moms are able to complete requirements and regain custody of their child or children. When our moms regain custody and begin to parent again, we have the privilege of teaching and equipping them with skills to be a loving parent.
As you can imagine, this has its challenges. Most children have not had a safe environment growing up, so when they realize it’s OK to feel and express their emotions, there are opportunities for growth on many levels.
Within our program requirements, moms take several parenting classes: Circle of Security, Grace Based Parenting, and Love and Logic are some of the classes. Our Children’s Program Coordinator also meets with moms weekly to discuss parenting issues that may arise during the week. They plan together how they can support and encourage their children, giving moms and children tools for a better life.
But we are always keeping the end goal in mind: These families need the tools and resources to stay healthy after they move out of UGM. That’s where we’ve seen some amazing support from churches, businesses and individuals committed to befriending moms who lack a healthy support network.
One of the most joyous stories I have watched unfold is when a local church came alongside a single mom with 3 children and supported her in every way possible. They accepted her right where she was in her recovery and reassured her they would stand with her. To put actions to their words they invested their time and energy into the lives of this family.
A businessman offered the mother a job and trained her in the position. When she would feel overwhelmed with her new role, he would reassure her that she was doing a good job and they were going to support her through this. He has continued to speak words of affirmation and has been a constant in her life.
I was astounded as others from the church mentored her and became father figures for her son. Women at the church also took on mentoring roles for her girls. When it was time for her to find her own place with her family, they already had furniture donated to help her set up her home.
They have loved this family with its ups and downs and have never shied away because the relationships came with challenges. They have been a continual strength in the life of this family, something that had never been a part of their lives before. They may have had a difficult start, but I know they have a hope-filled future.
Every day at Anna Ogden Hall, we get to be involved in the process as “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). I am so grateful for the family of God!
Your partnership with UGM makes all the difference for these moms who face so many obstacles and challenges. You can give a mom and her children a week of safety, care and resources for $180.