SAN ANTONIO – Thursday was an important day for Roselene Price and other young men and women in the third class to graduate from the Bexar County Children’s Court Early Intervention program.
“I’m just really excited. I’m really proud of myself,” Price said in the first cap and gown the 27-year-old has ever worn.
She said her inspiration was her little daughter, Mellie, who was in her Easter best for her mother’s graduation.
After a 10-year addiction to methamphetamine, Price’s baby tested positive at birth, said Barbara Schafer, the Children’s Court administrator.
“I was taken from her,” Price said.
Mellie was turned over to family members, and Price was only allowed one-hour visits weekly by Child Protective Services.
“I think once you have a CPS case and it enters into the courts' system, it’s all or nothing,” Schafer said. “I think a lot of these parents get that.”
Price said she made the life-changing decision to seek treatment from Volunteers of America, a faith-based in-patient treatment center for women. She said they taught her the skills she needed to stay clean and how to keep her life structured.
“It made me feel better as a mother, as a person, as a woman,” Price said.
Since the Early Intervention program is not court-mandated, Price voluntarily signed the required contract.
Schafer said the three- to six-month program for parents of children up to 5 years old is so intensive, that's it’s often compared to a “boot camp.” She said Price was so determined to succeed that she came into the program “guns blazing” and persevered.
Schafer said the goal is to help parents create the critical bond and nurturing that their children need in the first three years of their lives.
Children’s Court Judge Peter Sakai said too often, many mothers and fathers are battling drug and alcohol addiction and are dealing with a variety of personal traumas, including abuse when they were children. He said they are provided the services they need to overcome those problems.
“It’s not an easy path for these parents,” Sakai said. “Some have stumbled, relapsed or really messed up, but we don’t punish them.”
Sakai said he holds them accountable while not giving up on them.
“They have to acknowledge and take responsibility for those mistakes,” Sakai said. “But what we’ve seen is, if parents are given a chance, they often succeed.”
Funded by agencies including the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and private donors, such as the Hidalgo Foundation, 60 children have been reunited with 37 of the program's graduates since it began in 2016.