Danielle is 29 but looks older. A lifetime of addiction has that effect. The child of substance abusers is now the mother of five children ranging in age from 4 months to 13. Her children are experiencing a childhood similar to their mother’s: living with their great grandmother while dad is in jail and mom is in a residential rehab program.

“I was irritable and short with my kids when I was under the influence of substances,” Danielle said. “They thought it was their job to keep me emotionally stable and make me feel better.”

The young mother had never heard of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or their brain-damaging consequences for her children until she enrolled in a parenting class led by Jenn Martin, parent and community educator for The Family Center. Now, she’s asking lots of questions while learning how to keep her children healthy, happy and safe in a sober household. She is using communication skills learned in parenting class during weekly visits with her children. “They work,” she said. “I am surprised at how much of their [my children’s] lives they are willing to share with me when I really listen. The new skills are helping me prepare to go home.”

With The Family Center’s help, Danielle is adopting a parenting style different from her upbringing. “I can see there is a way to parent without spanking or yelling,” she said. “I want to be sober and emotionally present with my kids.”