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With a $90,000 investment from Washtenaw County’s Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage, the SURE Moms program—designed to unite, support, and empower mothers of justice-involved youth—is being extended to more moms across the county.
Under the stewardship of SURE Mom Coordinator Florence Roberson, SURE Moms has helped dozens of Washtenaw County mothers help themselves, each other, and their children. How? By offering peer support, trauma training, and life skills training in a safe, judgement-free setting.
On one night, for example, there’s a winter storm warning and the snow is piling up fast but the meeting begins, as it always does, with check ins from everyone present.
Around the table are mothers who have been ordered to attend these meetings, mothers who have chosen to attend, and mothers who are there to support the group. But as they check in with one another, those differences quickly fade.
One mother shares that she broke her son’s phone to keep him out of trouble. Another talks about her emotionally draining job. A third worries about getting her son “to see the importance of doing something productive with his life.” A fourth talks about her daughter’s relationship, which has just become disturbingly violent. “I just don’t want the violence, I’m just over the violence,” she says.
Of course, there’s positive news, too, and the longer moms stay, the more positive news there is says Roberson, who helped found the program in 2016, as a member of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Street Outreach Team in partnership with the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court.
One mother shares how eager her sons are to work, and says it’s one of the many things she loves about them. And when another mom says her daughter is doing chores around the house, cheers erupt all across the room.
Some of what makes SURE Moms effective, says Roberson, is just giving moms support. “When they come in,” says Roberson, “most moms feel broken because they felt like they had no support, and they didn’t know how to reach out for support or other resources.”
Another part of it, says Roberson, is helping moms understand and address past trauma. “They’ve been through abuse, and the loss of a child, and other things, and there was no therapy for them. So now they’ve got to go through it.”
With support from Washtenaw County Community Mental Health’s millage-funded CARES team, the mothers around the table tonight recently completed a six-week, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy program that helped them address prior trauma.
The focus, says Stacey Doyle, a social worker formerly with Washtenaw County Community Mental Health and now with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, was to help moms understand the impact of trauma, identify the trauma they and their children have been through, and begin to heal through evidence-based practices.
Now, with support from the millage, SURE Moms is being extended to more mothers with plans to impact many more families in Washtenaw County.