"I feel good about myself—I’m not leaving this program the same person I was when I came in," says Monique, who is holding her son, Daiquan.
"I didn’t have anyone who could take my baby, and I was getting ready to repeat history," she told Psychiatric News.
Tamar’s Children is a multiagency collaboration designed to help pregnant women who are incarcerated in Maryland to overcome problems related to trauma and substance abuse and to develop healthy relationships with their children (see facing page).
By the time Monique was 20 years old, she had three children. By the time she was 21, they had been removed from her custody due to her addiction to crack cocaine and heroin.
"I felt I had nothing to live for," she said. She also had problems trusting others and said "shame and guilt kept me using" and prevented her from seeking help.
But after entering the program and giving birth to her baby, Daiquan, she developed a new outlook on life. "I feel good about myself—I’m not leaving this program the same person I was when I came in," she said.
In addition to helping her recover from trauma and substance abuse, she said, "the program helped me to be a good mother," she said. "If my son needs something, I know I’ll be able to provide it to him."
Through Tamar’s Children, Monique acquired her GED. She said she is planning to attend college and become a substance-abuse counselor.
"I want to help people in return for the help that was given to me," she said. "Maybe I can help other addicts so they don’t have to experience the pain I did."
On the eve of leaving the facility to return to her home in Baltimore—she will return for six months to attend Circle of Security groups—Monique became reflective about the days ahead.
"I do have fear about being on my own, but I know it’s healthy to have fear," she said. "That fear will keep me on the right track."
She described herself as "ready to live life, because I have never really lived before."
When Monique encounters detractors, she responds with newfound confidence: "Some people look at those of us who have been incarcerated and think we can’t change our lives around. . . , but if you are determined to change, you can do it. You just have to be strong." ▪
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