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'I Help Mothers Overcome Drug Addiction, While Living With Their Kids'

In 1996, I began my profession within the habit box as a bright-eyed and anxious younger social employee. I labored nights and weekends in a residential program for ladies and their kids in Lexington, Kentucky.

Little did I do know that my first two years within the box would endlessly alternate me and get ready me for my long run—a profession devoted to girls recuperating from habit and their kids, whilst additionally getting ready me for my very own relations’s enjoy with this depraved illness.

I nonetheless keep in mind the primary ladies I helped via title and via their tales—Pam, Jeana, Karen, Mauricia and Liz. They taught me how disgrace and trauma can be a gateway to substance use dysfunction and the way with extensive scientific and peer-supported remedy, restoration used to be conceivable, regardless of how entrenched their illness used to be.

Freedom House recovery walk
Jennifer Hancock is president and CEO of Volunteers of The united states Mid-States in Louisville, Kentucky. She is pictured with citizens of Freedom Space all over their “restoration stroll” in September 2022.
Volunteers of The united states Mid-States

I amassed my maximum embarrassing skilled moments all over this primary profession bankruptcy—announcing the flawed issues on the flawed occasions, behaving unsuitably via enjoying spades and striking out with the ladies, quite than appearing like a qualified who used to be answerable for keeping up sturdy obstacles.

All the ones studies formed and nurtured me. I briefly discovered those ladies had been instructing me and serving to me develop up to I used to be with them. If I am being truthful, I felt extra like a scholar than a trainer all over the ones early life.

After shifting directly to different psychiatric and non-profit organizations, the place I honed my scientific and management abilities, I joined the group at Volunteers of The united states (VOA) in 2007. It used to be a quiet and humble group doing unbelievable paintings, particularly in behavioral well being.

Running with ladies in restoration and their kids

In Kentucky and its surrounding states, VOA advanced over greater than a century to change into a number one group devoted to serving probably the most maximum marginalized, together with ladies suffering from substance use dysfunction and their kids.

Our Freedom Space remedy program, based totally only in Louisville on the time, used to be the one program of its type within the area—one who enabled ladies to go into residential remedy and convey their kids with them.

Probably the most first graduates of Freedom Space I met used to be Tara. She had left in 2006 and used to be giving again to VOA via sharing her tale, offering a voice and a face to a illness that had lengthy been stigmatized, particularly for pregnant and parenting ladies.

Tara have been out and in of remedy 17 occasions, had skilled incarceration, and had already misplaced custody of her two older kids when she arrived at Freedom Space. Her relations instructed her they were not going to boost any other kid of hers, and Tara knew if she did not settle for the be offering to get remedy, her youngest son can be taken away and put into foster care.

Our program presented her a spot to be secure and nonetheless—clinically we name that “mental protection”—and allowed her to begin unpacking a life-time of trauma. While she used to be therapeutic and finding out new tactics to deal with her pressure, so used to be her son.

Cauley began kindergarten whilst dwelling together with his resilient mom in our facility, and used to be handled for his personal trauma too. He realized how the illness of habit used to be the wrongdoer at the back of the nights he spent with adults he did not know and what stored him from having the ability to depend on his mother.

How this system adjustments lives

Jennifer and baby
Jennifer is pictured with the three hundredth child born at Freedom Space.
Volunteers of The united states Mid-States

I’ve for my part witnessed the ease our program supplies with its robust and responsible surroundings for preventing habit. This is a prevention program for our youngest purchasers—newborns born loose of gear and babies who acquire a greater figuring out of what their relations has skilled.

It is usually a secondary prevention program for ladies who stroll in our doorways with burning disgrace and guilt, and who depart empowered to are living their lives within the daylight that extinguishes the stigma.

Tara is now again in her fatherland of Campbellsville, Kentucky. She is a restoration suggest, an energetic and engaged mom of 3 sons whom she adores, and a doting “Mimi” of 4. She may be one in every of my easiest buddies.

She is insightful and considerate and lives a lifestyles that used to be endlessly modified on account of her get admission to to a program that would meet the entire wishes of her and her son. She nonetheless says that the illness sought after her useless, and had it no longer been for her skill to convey her son along with her, she will have stayed at the streets. She would not be dwelling a satisfying lifestyles as of late.

Non-public enjoy with habit

Jennifer is pictured talking at an match marking the growth at Freedom Space. Pictured L-R: Jennifer, former PNC Financial institution CEO Chuck Denny and previous Congressman John Yarmuth.
Volunteers of The united states Mid-States

Because the opioid disaster swept the country, my very own relations felt the invasion of the illness in 2014. Through this level in my profession I had studied and realized about habit, noticed its penalties as a frontline employee, advocated for investment for family-focused remedy, and started enticing executive officers to know the go back on funding of increasing to regard much more households.

The pro thrill I felt of seeing households held in combination via our program and nurtured to a spot of steadiness and good fortune used to be all of sudden intersected with the terrifying truth that my very own relations used to be no longer immune.

For the following two years, I might toggle backward and forward as a relations member skilled substance use dysfunction, feeling the emotional curler coaster of devastation and pleasure whilst I labored via a succession plan to change into the president and CEO of the group I joined all the ones years in the past.

The urgency I felt to increase our program so that every one addicted, pregnant and parenting ladies who wanted us may have get admission to used to be intensified via witnessing, within my very own relations, the heartbreaking results that may befall babies born substance-exposed.

Increasing this system

We tripled the capability of Freedom Space in Louisville in 2018 and expanded to serve southeastern Kentucky in 2020. This a part of Appalachia used to be devastated via opioids, and we had been the primary program to open our doorways and welcome entire households. We had been at capability nearly in an instant, even because the COVID-19 pandemic began.

VOA continues to increase, and with beneficiant enhance from Kentucky lawmakers, many non-public folks, foundations and firms, we will be able to upload 3 extra identical systems around the state. For the primary time, Freedom Space shall be domestically out there—casting off extra boundaries related to transportation and concern of being uprooted from house.

Ladies and youngsters from in all places Kentucky can have a spot to be supported and heal, identical to Tara and Cauley did. Greater than 300 wholesome newborns have began lifestyles with us and masses of households have graduated from our program. These days, the hustle and bustle of our systems are reflective of lifestyles in lots of wholesome American properties.

Following a agenda with foods and actions that convey other folks in combination round a kitchen desk to be told and be in combination. Kids guffawing, young children crying and moms solving dinner. Construction a way of connection and belonging and being nurtured to be their easiest.

Upload to that, 40 hours each and every week of in depth scientific programming the place youngsters and mothers are in person and team remedies, categories, and actions to arrange them to transport again into the group wholesome and full. We have now constructed stunning properties stuffed with love {and professional} products and services which might be therapeutic folks, households and communities at some point at a time.

This yr, we have a good time 30 years of this life-saving resolution. There may be not anything extra vital than the paintings I am getting to do. Once I say Freedom Home is life-changing, I imply it. It has endlessly modified mine for the simpler.

Jennifer Hancock is president and CEO of Volunteers of The united states Mid-States in Louisville, Kentucky. She is these days running on financial building tasks and employment alternatives for ladies finishing the Freedom Space program.

All perspectives expressed on this article are the writer’s personal.

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