“When I felt her kick for the very first time, I knew that I had to do something different,” Courtney Hawkins says about her youngest child, Aria.
Courtney was in jail when she felt that first kick. She was arrested for failure to appear in court or pay a previous shoplifting charge. In March 2016, after her son, Skylar, accidentally set their house on fire with a butane torch, she lost custody of both him and her first daughter, Bayleigh. Battling addiction, missing her two eldest children, and now realizing that a third was on the way, she committed herself to finding a new path forward.
Now, more than four years later, Courtney continues on her new path. She’s thriving and building a new life for her family. Through the holistic efforts of Blue Monarch, a residential recovery program for mothers in Monteagle, Tennessee, Courtney found the resilience to get sober, find her self-worth, and rediscover her role as a mother.
Her story is proof that strategies to bring individuals out of addiction must be as determined and tough as the forces that brought them there in the first place. Organizations like Blue Monarch are setting a new standard for comprehensive recovery by providing stability and purpose for mothers who have experienced nothing but uncertainty — and often, abuse.
In Courtney’s case, after having Skylar at 16, his father physically abused her, causing a miscarriage that led to her dependence on pain medication. She later married a man who would be the father of her two daughters, and who sparked the methamphetamine habit that began her downward spiral.
Following Courtney’s release from jail, she did her best to get clean but struggled to find a program that offered long-term support. She secured a spot at a halfway house in Knoxville, Tennessee, but they didn’t permit children, and she didn’t have time to complete the program before Aria was due.
“I wasn’t going to be able to have her there with me, but I knew that I couldn’t go home,” Courtney says.
Instead, she was referred to Blue Monarch, which offers long-term support for women and their children who are overcoming the trauma of abuse and addiction. Her case manager from the Department of Child Services strongly suggested that she apply. After calling for months, Courtney was finally accepted in January 2017, two weeks before Aria was born.
At Blue Monarch, she found a rigorous curriculum that was tougher than anywhere else she’d been, but also addressed the complexity of her personal history and experience as a mother.
“I was able to solely focus on getting myself better,” Courtney says. “I didn’t have to focus on bills or anything like that. I had people who were constantly pouring into me and helping me work through things that had happened in my past.”
Blue Monarch’s approach allowed Courtney to gain life skills, from parenting to anger management, that helped her believe in herself again. Most importantly, she got a second chance at being a mother. In May 2017, she regained custody of Bayleigh, and she regained custody of Skylar in March 2018.
“I wasn’t even able to have a relationship with my son from the time I lost custody until two years later,” Courtney says. “I think I spoke on the phone to him maybe three times in two years and never got to see him.”
Once Courtney was united with her family, Blue Monarch shifted its support to help her ensure a stable future. She was first offered a role with Out of the Blue Granola, Blue Monarch’s on-site social enterprise, and after graduating, she landed a job as a receptionist at Premier Women’s Health, an OB-GYN clinic in nearby Winchester, TN.
Courtney loved her job so much that she asked to take on new responsibilities as a medical assistant. Her supervisor agreed to pay for her schooling, and Blue Monarch helped make it possible by paying for ten weeks of childcare while she earned her license.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw an unexpected complication into Courtney’s newfound independence: when her children’s daycare shut down, she had nowhere to send them so she could keep working. Blue Monarch was there to offer the support she needed, and as part of Stand Together and the Family Independence Initiative’s #GiveTogetherNow campaign, they helped connect Courtney to a $500 direct cash payment so she could pay for reliable childcare while continuing to work.
This fall, Courtney achieved the next milestone in her journey of recovery and motherhood: buying a home for her family. She was able to rebuild her credit while at Blue Monarch, which helped her secure a mortgage.
Now, when she talks about the future, Courtney doesn’t sound defeated. Instead, her words are full of hope, and she’s grateful for the chance to be with her children again.
“They’re happy to have each other because they didn’t have each other for two years,” Courtney says. “Our relationship has just bloomed.”
Photo description: Blue Monarch mothers and children in Monteagle, TN
Photo credit: Michelle Barnett Photography