“It’s been absolutely beautiful to see you come to this point,” said Sanders, who also is participating.
Jones, of Norwalk, is the latest graduate in the intense Huron County Juvenile Court program. Those celebrating her achievement and graduation Friday included her 18-month-old daughter, Kensli Belcher, and her boyfriend, Harley Belcher.
Judge Timothy Cardwell said addiction separates people from the rest of the community. However, now that Jones has successfully completed the program, is maintaining her sobriety and has been working steadily, Cardwell told her she is “back in the circle” of community life.
Jones’ case was first brought before Cardwell in mid-January 2018. Her daughter was removed from her custody as a result of her substance abuse and arrest.
“Christina had been making an attempt to living a clean and sober life, but had relapsed after a long period of sobriety. She did not yet have all of the supports in place to maintain (her sobriety) long term,” said Lindsey Ingram, program coordinator.
“At the Huron County Jail, Christina stated to me that she would do whatever it takes to be sober and get custody of her daughter back. Christina made the choice to participate in the Huron County family dependency treatment court.”
Carrie Bischoff, CASA coordinator, said she knew from the beginning of Jones’ case that Jones always had her daughter’s best interests and care in mind — even when there were “rough times.” CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate, a person who is in court on behalf of a child.
“I know you will put your daughter at the top of every list,” Bischoff said.
During the program, Jones had several expectations, which included attending treatment and sober support meetings, obtaining a sponsor and creating stability in her life.
“Christina worked to get a good job to pay her bills and support her family. She secured a nice home and was able to move out of an area that had been a negative environment for her sobriety. It was also very important to Christina to earn back the trust of family and friends that she damaged over the years while she was using,” Ingram said.
While noting that “Christina’s growth was difficult” at times and despite her goals, Ingram said Jones didn’t “always see the potential that others saw in her, what we saw in her.”
“There were stumbles, but after each setback Christina would conjure up the determination to push through the next obstacle stronger than before,” Ingram said.
Jones said the program taught her to face adversity instead of crawling “back into the dark hole I was used to living in.” She described herself as “genuinely happy” and said she has learned skills she will use the rest of her life.
“Giving up was not an option,” she added.
As of May 6, Jones has been working for one year at the same job. During Friday’s graduation ceremony, Jones thanked her manager for her support and said while “it may not be anybody’s dream job,” she said her “heart is full” knowing “someone believes in me.”
Morgan Newell, Jones’ case manager at Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, praised Jones, saying her future is bright.
“You’ve come a long way,” Newell added.
Karlee Varney, the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services social worker for Jones, encouraged her to “fight for you” and “fight for your family.”
“Do whatever it takes,” she said.