Family Recovery Court making a difference

APGraduate: Bryant Ellington, center, became the latest graduate of the Family Recovery Court program led by Vigo Circuit Court Judge Sarah Mullican, left. Home-based caseworker Kala May of Family Solutions helped Ellington through the process.

Graduating Thursday from Family Recovery Court is the high point of the past two years for Bryant Ellington and his family.

“It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me and my family,” Ellington said, surrounded by friends, other participants and supporters of the problem-solving court program in Vigo Circuit Court.

Almost two years ago, Ellington said, he was unemployed, using drugs and his four young daughters had been deemed Children In Need of Services by the court.

But when given the opportunity to turn his life around and keep his family together, Ellington agreed to participate in the court program. And, he’s glad he did.

“They give you all the tools you need to put your life back together, put yourself back together and your family,” Ellington said. “At times it was hard, but I stuck with it. It took a little while, but today I’m graduating. I have my family and I’m employed.”

Family Recovery Court, known as FRC, celebrated its fourth graduate from the program on Thursday with a Thanksgiving meal served at Calvary Temple Church on North 6 ½ Street. Participants cooked alongside partners from the Department of Family and Children, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and legal and service providers on the FRC team.

Two and a half years ago, Judge Sarah Mullican, in partnership with the DFC, CASA and other vital community partners, initiated a Family Recovery Court in Vigo County.

It is a problem-solving court that meets once a week to provide intensive services to parents struggling with substance abuse and whose children have been adjudicated CHINS.

This program came to fruition, in part, to address the rising numbers of children in Vigo County who find themselves removed from their parents and placed in the foster care system due to substance abuse in the home.

As the FRC program grew and evolved, it led to conversations with local leaders and community partners. It has also produced community projects for participants, such as a community garden project.

Judge Mullican said FRC is a team approach with public defenders, CASA, Department of Family and Children, and service providers working together to help families with children get on track.

FRC works on the model of five phases that focus on obtaining and maintaining sobriety, housing, education, employment and family unification.

“The idea is to break the cycle of getting the Department of Child Services involved in people’s life,” Mullican said.

Ellington appreciates the end to that cycle for his family.

He said he feels like the Department of Child Services intervention saved not only his life, but the lives of his four children.

He worked through drug treatment, a relapse and found success in a 90-day sober living program.

“It was a long-road, but it seriously paid off,” Ellington said.

Home-based worker Kala May of Family Solutions said the FRC program is incentive-based and uses positive reinforcements to help participants remake their lives.

“I can see the difference it has made in my clients’ lives,” May said.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

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Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.