PHOENIX — A moment full of joy and smiles between a mother and her daughter inside the halls of Superior Court on Thursday required a journey of redemption for it to take place.
“If you had met me a couple of years ago, I am not the same person and I would not be able to be the mother I am today,” said Brittney Almond as she snuggled her 2-year-old daughter Sophia.
Almond is one of the thousands of parents reunited with their children every year across the state — but the journey to her newly acquired life wasn’t easy.
“I saw it as I always had a house, I always had a car, I always had my kids, so there was no problem until there was, and everything was gone in the blink of an eye,” said Almond.
Like so many Americans, addiction, poor choices, and a dangerous environment created by Almond’s lifestyle, and forced Child Protective Services to take custody of her four children.
That includes the day she gave birth to her daughter Sophia.
“I walked away from the hospital with an empty car seat, and an empty belly, and I had to start there,” said Almond.
What came next, was a choice to do better and be better, one step at a time.
“I had to make a list of things I needed to do and not only for CPS but for recovery too, I had a sponsor, I was going to meetings, I was working, I was on the bus,” said Almond.
“I’ve been a judge for 15 years and some of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen in the courtroom are families that reunify,” said Maricopa County Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Kreamer.
Judge Kreamer says more than 8,000 kids in Maricopa County currently remain in foster care after being removed from a home. But he says what should be celebrated is the fact last year more than 4,600 were reunited with moms and dads.
“These are parents, most of whom are good people going through difficult times. They need some help, they get that help, they do a lot of work themselves, those kids do better, they do better when they get back to their families,” said Judge Kreamer.
After 230 days since giving birth, Sophia was back in her mother's loving arms.
Almond — two and a half years sober, employed, and engaged — is now sharing her story in hopes that others find the strength to heal as well.
“It’s a constant journey. It’s not over. If you stop doing what’s worked you can fall right back into that sickness,” said Almond. “This is so crazy to say but I’m excited for what life has, and there was a day that I didn’t even want to wake up. I just hope others know they can do it too.”