MAYVILLE - Addiction and the troubles that come with it can be a challenge to overcome, but graduates of the Family Treatment Drug Court on Wednesday showed that through hard work and perseverance, a person can overcome these odds.
The graduation ceremony, held at the Family Court building in Mayville, included four participants who were graduating from the program while acknowledging those who were progressing in the program. Family Court Judge Judith Claire said the ceremony was to highlight all the hard work that participants put in in order to better themselves and have their children returned to them.
"These are always such special occasions ... we don't often get to celebrate in Family Court," she told a crowd that had gathered to support those graduates and participants.
Barb Kubera and Judge Judith Clair present graduates of the Family Treatment Drug Court with certificates.
P-J photo by Andrew Carr
According to Barb Kubera, Family Court resource coordinator, participants in the program go through three phases each. The first phase involves weekly visits to the court to check on progress, the second phase includes bi-weekly visits and the third phase includes monthly visits. Participants then write an essay, apply for graduation from the program, and, if they have succeeded in everything asked of them, they are acknowledged during the ceremony and issued a certificate and commemorative coin, which helps them remember how far they have come.
In order to graduate from the program, a participant is generally in the program for at least one year, remaining drug and alcohol free and be actively visiting or reunited with their children. All graduates have successfully completed their treatment program, complied with the terms of all court orders, have attended court sessions all other requirements for the requisite period. It is the length of the program and the personal accountability within the Chautauqua County Family Treatment Court model which is responsible for the low levels of recidivism, said Judge Claire.
"This is an extremely vigorous program," said Judge Claire. "It takes a lot of guts to get through and a lot of courage."
Claire said that the four graduates between them have eight children who today have healthy mothers due to the program.
A former graduate of the program spoke to those in attendance about the long road they have traveled and continue to travel.
"Family Treatment Court is a choice that you make," said the woman. "It is not just a choice to overcome your legal problems. It means that you want to become healthy, it means that you want to break the cycle."
She said the program is about becoming healthy for their children, so they can be active in the childrens' lives.
Members of the program were recognized for graduating and moving up in phases on the program with certificates and coins with sayings such as "One day at a time," to help encourage them to continue with the program.
Each graduate shared their story of struggling with addiction, and breaking the cycle to become the parent they needed to be.
"One of the reasons we started treatment court is that we saw filings from the Department of Social Services and petitions coming in where a baby had been born and the baby was born addicted to drugs and their first experience in life was to go through withdrawl," said Judge Claire. "While this program has existed, we have probably had about a dozen babies that have been born healthy and drug free, so we always say the best result drug court can have is saving a life, be it a participant, their unborn child or their born children. Many of our graduates have told us that it has saved their lives."
The mission statement of the court reads, "to provide safe, permanent, healthy homes for children in the shortest possible time. The Family Treatment Drug Court Program provides a comprehensive approach designed to act in the best interest of each child by maximizing the opportunity for reunification or preservation of the family, by breaking the cycle of addiction as well as patterns of neglect associated with the patients chemical dependency. The FTDC will accomplish this through a plan of monitoring resource delivery with the goal of limiting foster care stays through ongoing collaborative case management and expedite informed permanency planning."
Involved with the court are the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, the county Department of Mental Hygiene, SPOA Program, The Resource Center, the Salvation Army Children and Family Outreach Program, the Chautauqua Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Council, the county Public Defender's office, TLC Health Network, CASA, St. Susan Center, Chautauqua Opportunities, the Strengthening FAmilies Initiative, Chautauqua Works, Rural Ministries, Paula Pinchon of In a Flash Photography who offers each participant a family photo session upon graduation, EveryWoman Opportunity Center and the YMCA.