SAN ANTONIO -

The central jury room at the Bexar County Courthouse was crowded with graduates from Family Drug Court who had successfully completed its year-long program.

By doing so, 19 once-troubled parents who had to answer to the court and Child Protective Services, were reunited with a total of 48 children.

“This is why I enjoy my job,” said Judge Peter Sakai, of the 225th District Court.

Sakai said the latest class undertook an intensive program that included parenting and domestic violence classes, counseling and abide by the court’s strict conditions.

“They worked hard to overcome their addictions, to overcome allegations of abuse and neglect,” Sakai said. “I want them to walk away with their dignity and self-respect.”

Among those graduating was Teresa Guillermo.

“When I first came in, I was a broken person,” Guillermo said.

She said her four children were removed by CPS.

But last Thanksgiving, she was reunited with only her youngest son for now.

“He kept telling me, he loves me, he loves me, every single minute,” Guillermo said.

As a result, she said Mother’s Day now will have added meaning.

“It’s going to be great this year,” Guillermo said. “I’m clean today and I get to do things with him that I never used to before.”

Guillermo said she had to help herself before she could help her children.

“I know that I made it through and I’m still working through it,” Guillermo said. “I have to stay clean for my kids.”

Sakai said Family Drug Court is about restoring families and protecting children.

The judge said Bexar County has a serious problem with child abuse and neglect, many resulting in deaths.

For that reason, Sakai said he hopes the program’s graduates will become role models for others by being law abiding citizens and good parents.

He said if so, “We’re going to have a healthier community.”

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.