As Martha* watches her son take his first steps across the kitchen floor, she began to think back and appreciate how far she has come after a challenging past.

Growing up Martha was physically and sexually abused by multiple members of her family. At the age of 14, she was placed in foster care where she lived until age 18. Struggling with symptoms and effects of bipolar disorder like intense emotions, difficulty maintaining a job, difficulty in social situations and poor self esteem, she lived in a series of public housing apartments and group homes until her mid twenties. She also became involved in substance abuse.

Martha was then introduced to Family & Children’s Center (FCC). Her bipolar disorder made her eligible for the Community Support Program (CSP). CSP provides coordinated care for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness to help them live more independently in the community.

Her first goal in CSP was to tackle her substance abuse issues. With help from her case manager, and the program’s alcohol and other drug abuse counseling, she was able to deal with her addictions. Then her case manager helped her move into her own apartment, learn to drive, and obtain her driver’s license.

With her new found independence Martha met a boyfriend, Michael*, and they began a family with a baby boy. They have both taken steps to be good parents and raise their son in a healthy home. Martha and Michael were both raised in chaotic, abusive families without patterns for healthy communication. They both expressed to Martha’s case manager a desire to raise their son in a healthy environment where communication is respectful. Therefore they chose to participate in couple’s counseling through FCC’s Outpatient Therapy clinic to increase and improve their communication.

The next goal Martha set was to purchase a home with Michael. She worked with her CSP case manager to budget finances and find the funds necessary to make this happen. They moved into their new home.

Today, Martha and Michael both work part time in the community. Their son is now one year old. Martha’s goals and biggest challenges are related to parenting a toddler.

Martha’s case manager is proud of the progress she has made, and says, “full independence for those living with severe and persistent mental illness isn’t easy. But, Martha has worked hard to achieve her goals and become the mother, employee and community member she dreamed of being.”

*All names in this story were changed.