SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio mom said she was battling drug and alcohol addiction when Texas Child Protective Services showed up at her door and took her daughter away.
Less than a year later and after a lot of work, the mom was reunited with her daughter, thanks to the Bexar County Early Childhood Court program.
Now, Stephanie Bailey said she’s more present in her 4-year-old’s life than she was before CPS stepped in.
“Right a couple of days before CPS showed up, it was Rowan’s third birthday, and I didn’t spend the day with her,” she said, recalling the week that changed her life. “At that point, you know, I just felt really defeated in my addiction. So I just felt like CPS was now answering my prayers, to be honest.”
The 33-year-old mother said she was even angry that authorities had been called at first.
However, once she was ready for help, Bailey was accepted into the Bexar County Early Childhood Court program.
The program is a fast-track system to help families who qualify and whose children are under five years old reunite in less than a year.
Monica Clark with the Conservative Specialist Court said the system requires a lot of commitment to complete and self-evaluation for families to heal and feel safe for reunification.
“Once they accept that, ‘hey, it was my actions. I’m the one who did it’ and not blame everything on CPS. Then we go from there,” Clark said. “But that takes, you know, four or five, six months. And in that time, we’re just trying to give them as many tools as we possibly can to make it a healthy and safe reunification.”
Around 100 to 150 families complete the program each year. The average completion and reunification take anywhere from six to eight months, said Clark.
The program also includes therapy along with classes for parenting and domestic violence.
After attending rehab, Bailey was able to take her daughter home in March 2022. She said it is not easy, but it is worth it.
“Unless you’re ready to quit using drugs or alcohol, then it’s not going to work,” she said.
Lastly, Clark said the ultimate goal is to reunite the child with their parent.
“We don’t want to keep your child. You’re the parent. You love them. You care about them. We just want to make sure you have all the right tools to do that,” Clark said.