Saving Babies, Changing Lives

Hendrix, born healthy in February 2018, accompanied his mother, Maxine, to United Way's June Pop Up Giving event. Community Healing Centers is where Maxine found the support she needed to get her life back.

There are days when Kaye Sanders realizes she’s been holding her breath from the moment she woke up.

As the Recovery House Coordinator for Community Healing Centers’ Women’s Specialty Program, Sanders and her team walk beside women working to rebuild lives and families while battling addiction. Many of them – particularly those who reside at Bethany House – are pregnant or post-partum.

Setbacks are inevitable – relapses, family separation and more. These are the reasons Sanders holds her breath, hoping the women stay sober and clean each day.

But celebrations are plentiful, too – from healthy births to reunited families.

“It’s life and death, many days,” Sanders said. “Without this house, many of them would be forced to go back to wherever it was they were using drugs. You sit with a woman, and she’ll tell you about how her mother was the first person to give her a foil. And that’s where she’s going back. Or the boyfriend who’s an addict, refusing to quit just because she’s pregnant. So it’s truly life and death for the baby. I see this as an opportunity to break this generational substance dependence.”

Community Healing Centers, a United Way partner and the most recent Pop Up Giving grantee, is the only facility in West Michigan that accepts pregnant women addicted to drugs or alcohol, Sanders said. Bethany House, one of five CHC recovery homes, is the only one that allows children under age 8 to live there with their mothers.

The women first need to complete a detox program; then they have the opportunity to stay at the house, where they can continue to receive counseling, case management, Child Protective Services support and other services. Some stay as long as a year.

“The women I can’t house, or who don’t need housing, we serve through the Women’s Specialty Program,” where they receive the same services, Sanders said.

There are currently six women and 13 children living at Bethany House. The program has celebrated eight healthy births this year alone, and last year reunified 23 children with their families.

Community Healing Centers was one of three featured organizations at United Way’s June Pop Up Giving event, and Sanders used the spotlight to address the need for cribs at Bethany House. The program had been using portable cribs, sometimes known as “pack ‘n’ plays.” Recent CPS guidelines now require full-sized cribs, a significant cost.

With the Pop Up Giving donation, CHC will purchase seven cribs, with a little money left over to offer kits to the new mothers. Those will include baby bottle kits that reduce colic, Velcro swaddler blankets and a sleep sack.

The need for CHC’s services has exploded, Sanders said, as the use of opioids and other substances has increased. They could easily fill a second house, she added, and may do so in the future. Another growth area is in men’s case management. Where possible, they’re working to involve the fathers of babies and children whose mothers are in treatment.

“It’s about the family,” Sanders said. “If we can save the family, then I think we need to grow that.”

Learn more about how organizations like Community Healing Centers are changing lives. Our next Pop Up Giving event is Tuesday, July 31, at The Fire Hub in Battle Creek. Please join us!