Ready for Change

Barbie holds her children

For more than 10 years, Barbie struggled with substance use disorders. After giving birth to her youngest daughter, Rhythim, in 2017, Barbie turned to The Salvation Army’s New Choices program.

“I was ready to make a change,” she says.

Based in Hamilton, Ont., New Choices is a program for pregnant or mothering women who struggle with substance use disorders and are at any stage of recovery. The objective of New Choices is to break down barriers for at-risk women who may face difficulty receiving the support and resources they need to overcome their addiction. New Choices offers programs and services for both mothers and children, with the goal of always meeting the client where they’re at.

“The client identifies their needs and struggles from their perspective, and we advocate for them,” says Kristin Baughan, program manager. “Whether it be Children’s Aid, probation or doctor’s appointments, we’re there for the mom and the child to help advocate for them through these barriers.”

At New Choices, Barbie receives counselling, learns parenting and life skills, and maintains her sobriety. Barbie brings Rhythim to the New Choices day program, participates in activities with her daughter and receives the individual help she needs.

“I’ve gotten to enjoy every piece of Rhythim’s life,” says Barbie. “The women at New Choices help you with everything. If you’re having a housing crisis, if you need a lawyer, there’s nothing those women don’t do. They supply you with grocery cards and diapers. Without being embarrassed, you can go to them. They help you in so many ways, not just recovery.”

“The staff showed me how to love myself again because I hated the version of who I was before.”

Today, Barbie has been clean for five years, thanks to her own hard work and The Salvation Army’s New Choices program.

She says that New Choices taught her everything: “Compassion, empathy, how to be courageous and how to cope. The staff showed me how to love myself again because I hated the version of who I was before.”

Today, Barbie maintains a good relationship with her adult children, who she previously lost custody of to Children’s Aid when she was in active addiction. In addition to raising her daughter, Rhythim, she recently took kinship of six-month-old Dylan, the child of a family friend who is in active addiction and unable to care for him.

The kinship approval process requires extensive screening by Children’s Aid. After a criminal record check and visits with Dylan to determine Barbie’s fitness, Children’s Aid approved her application.

“My life is full and amazing today.”

“It was an overwhelming feeling of pride, love and accomplishment,” says Barbie. “I’m so happy Dylan is in my life and God gifted him to me.

“New Choices made a huge impact in my life. I took every program offered, not because someone told me to, but because I wanted to,” she continues. “I got rid of people, places and substances, and made so many changes. My life is full and amazing today.”

By Abbigail Oliver