On Thursday, October 11th members of the Families Free and First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court teams, current participants in the program, family, and friends gathered to celebrate the success of Brooke and Kaice. Both women joined the First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court program looking for a second chance.
MeredithFirst Judicial District Felony Recovery Court Graduation
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” JFK
Families Free was invited to take part in the event for Building Strong Brains: Tennessee in Nashville today. This ACEs Initiative is a major statewide effort to establish Tennessee as a national model for how a state can promote culture change in early childhood based on a philosophy that preventing and mitigating adverse childhood experiences, and their impact, is the most promising approach to helping Tennessee children lead productive, healthy lives.
Dr. Karen Schetzina and Executive Director Lisa Tipton next to the informational poster for their Baby Steps to Success ACEs project.
Families Free’s work in the community mirrors these very same goals, and we address the hard issues facing our region: addiction, child welfare, and poverty. Our programs help build the capacity of vulnerable families through education, intervention, and restoration of relationships – all of which strengthens families and our community as a whole. We love Tennessee’s commitment to children and families, and we are so grateful for their state funding and support in our efforts to build and foster resiliency. #LoveRestores
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown
We are right there with those who are exploring the darkness. The programs at Families Free give our team the opportunity to go into these environments, offer treatment, and help build community. From there, our clients see the power of their very own light. While we believe you cannot truly quantify how a changed life will affect a family or even a community, we wanted to share the latest news and numbers from our work in January 2018. #LoveRestores
On January 31st we had the pleasure of celebrating three women in our Intensive Outpatient Program: Shellie, Sunday, and Marjorie.
Individuals that attend our intensive outpatient program meet three times a week for three-hour sessions. It generally takes six to eight weeks to complete this first level of our program, but the length is determined by completion of therapeutic goals for each individual. For these three women, this day marked their transition to the next phase of their recovery. It also presented the opportunity to reflect on their journey and the hard work it took to get to this point.
Marjorie’s time with Families Free began this past September after serving her sentence on a federal charge. She had reached out to her mother to help find a program where she could begin the recovery process, and she started working with us shortly afterward. “I feel like I am making progress with my goals in recovery. Families Free has helped give me the extra push that I need to set future goals, and I would strongly suggest the Families Free (Intensive Outpatient) Program. It has helped me build a lot of trust, and the staff is amazing.”
Sunday also took the time to look back on the steps she has made to empower herself and improve her life. “IOP has helped me to set goals that move me forward in my recovery and grow as a person. Before working with Families Free, I didn’t think I was worth anything or that I was good enough for anything. Now I have a job, I’m starting school, and raising my kids.”
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking about working with Families Free she had this to say: “Do it. They have helped me to see the person I was always meant to be. They love you when you can’t love yourself, and they help by giving you a new view on life.”
We honor Shellie, Sunday, and Marjorie’s hard work and congratulate them on their determination and progress. Our team looks forward to seeing them through the next phase of treatment and witnessing how love continues to restore their lives.
There are close to 450 women in the four regional jails we serve and around 100 of those women are engaged in our Reentry Life Skills Classes and Therapeutic Groups. From those women, we received several lovely cards over this past holiday season that were filled with messages brimming with hope and gratitude. In addition to their kind words, we were equally moved to learn that some of the cards were purchased by pooling together commissary money.
It’s our belief that during incarceration we should offer these women support when they choose to take that first step toward building a better life. We have a moral responsibility to meet them where they are at this time in their lives. Our mission is to give them hope, truth, and help teach them community reintegration and family reunification skills. We also provide a bridge to programs through Families Free that will further support them once they have been released. The connections we make during our time in the jails are vital to renewing these women, their families, and our community as well. #LoveRestores
MeredithCards From Our Reentry Life Skills Classes
On November 29th the Families Free team was excited to host Stepping Out, a private clothing event for our clients held at First Christian Church. We were so thankful to receive gently-used clothing donations from the Owl’s Nest, and through their generosity, our clients where able to take home a variety of outfits. Most importantly, the clothes not only represent new outfits – they also symbolize progress and new opportunities.
“After reading about self-sabotage, I started to learn so much about myself,” said Brooke.
Brooke was placed in DCS custody as a child, and she believes this is when she first started to make decisions based off fear. Self-sabotage came into play many times throughout her life – whether that be during her time spent living with foster families, when she entered into relationships with men, or even in regards to her own children.
“The worst part of my self-sabotaging would be my relationships with my children,” stated Brooke. “After I lost (gave up) my oldest son, I was ashamed of myself for losing him. I didn’t think I deserved my other kids. I was so scared of my addiction, and the way I was living.
I have also used self-sabotage with probation. Every time I was released, I was terrified. I did not know how to live outside of jail. At first I would run and continue to use. The last few times I’ve used right before my drug test knowing I would fail, just so I could go back to jail and live the life I was used to.”
Brooke in front of The Coffee Company, owned by John and Lisa Bunn.
Through her own hard work, the guidance and support given to her by our Families Free team, and her participation in the First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court, Brooke is making big strides. She’s living a life where her decisions are based off hope and love, not fear.
The First Judicial Felony Recovery Court brings together community resources to help participants overcome barriers to treatment success. Team members are included from key agencies including State Probation, Alternative Community Corrections Program, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Frontier Health, the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, and treatment is provided by Families Free. The Recovery Court team is led by the Honorable Judge Stacy Street and the Honorable Judge Lisa Rice.
Families Free has been fortunate enough to receive support from businesses in our area – one of which is The Coffee Company, owned by John and Lisa Bunn. For the the last three months, Brooke has been working alongside the staff of this Elizabethton, TN mainstay.
The heart of John and Lisa’s business mirrors the very same goals we have for Families Free: a common desire to help the local community and provide a safe environment for those who are unsure of their future. “We are very likeminded in the way we want to help, said John Bunn. “We’re trying to provide a faith-based ministry, even though we are a restaurant – a place where people can have a new start. A place where young people can find their way.”
In addition to providing employment opportunities and important community connections, John and Lisa Bunn also lease an additional building where recovery court treatment sessions take place. Their continuous support of vital programs allows Brooke, and many others, the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
John Bunn, owner of The Coffee Company, and Brooke.
When asked how Families Free has changed her outlook for the future, Brooke had this to say: “It’s changed a lot. They helped me get into rehab, and then get helped me get into the Oxford House and helped me get my job. Now I plan on going to school and becoming a better person. I think everybody should get the chance to work with Families Free.”
“Brooke talked about becoming a better person – Brooke has always been a good person,” voiced Robin Ledford, Co-Occurring Coordinator, LADAC for Families Free. “I think it’s our job at Families Free to help her see that in herself, and there came a point in time when she was ready to receive the help. I’m very proud of Brooke and her progress. Her potential is unlimited.”
With the support of our community and a solid belief in herself and her abilities, we believe Brooke will utilize her unlimited potential to achieve great things. #LoveRestores
Change can be both scary and painful – but it can also be the greatest gift we give to ourselves. Janessa’s story is one where change leads to success, and it serves to inspire everyone around her. It’s a true testament of how #LoveRestores.
In May 2016, Janessa decided to apply for Washington County, Tennessee’s Drug Recovery Court while she was in jail. “Because of the decisions I made entering Drug Recovery Court and joining Families Free – I have my children back, and I’m raising my children sober,” said Janessa.
More than a year later, Janessa’s first steps toward sobriety have allowed her to stand before her peers, friends, and our Families Free team to celebrate her success. This accomplishment means everything to Janessa.
“Before entering the Recovery Court program, I held on so long to dark places and dark people. I didn’t have my children; I didn’t have anything. I was actually sleeping in the woods at the time, because I didn’t even have a place to go. I’m walking out today knowing I can do it by myself. I’ve made so many changes, and it’s all because of Recovery Court. I did choose to change, but I wouldn’t be here today without Families Free,” said Janessa.
Janessa with Families Free’s Judy Clark and Lisa Tipton.
Janessa receiving her diploma from Assistant District Attorney Michael Rasnake and Megan Price, coordinator for the Washington County Drug Court.
Partnerships with programs such as Washington County, Tennessee’s Drug Recovery Court are vital in our work to support the community. However, it’s the incredible transformation of women like Janessa that truly showcases how love guides both the Families Free team and the individuals we serve.
We are so grateful that our work with the community has been featured in the news once more! Local news station WJHL ran the story of one of our volunteers Myra Phipps and included information about our partnership with Bellafina Chocolates. Through Bellafina we make and distribute our gourmet chocolates and coffee, and this collaboration helps provide sustainable employment for women in our area. To read the full story follow this link or watch the video above.
A letter from one of the brave women we have served…… Families Free feels so fortunate to have played a role in Myra’s story. She’s an inspiration to us all!
I was raised in Mountain City, TN. My father was an alcoholic and committed suicide when I was 12. My mother was very abusive to me and my sister. At the age of 15, I was taken into state custody and put in foster care because of the abuse. I never received any therapy. I didn’t think I needed it.
firstname.lastname@example.org“I had no hope that I would lead a normal, happy and healthy life…”