MAYVILLE - Emotions were high. A few tears were shed, too.
Two participants of the Chautauqua County Family Treatment Court graduated Wednesday at the Family Court building in Mayville.
"This is the day we have all been looking for," said Family Court Judge Judith Claire.
Two former graduates of the Family Treatment Court program, currently in its ninth year, spoke at the graduation ceremony. Members of the county Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services and county Public Defender's Office, among others, were present as well.
"This is the place that saved me," a former graduate said to a packed courtroom. "It saved my life and my children's."
Another former graduate said, "I am a much better person, and a better mother."
Participants in the intensive program must complete at least 12 months of treatment, and must remain drug-and-alcohol free. Members must go through three phases, which requires weekly, biweekly and monthly court sessions, respectively.
Judge Claire has become an outspoken proponent for the treatment court.
"One of the reasons we started this program," Claire told The Post-Journal, "was because of the number of petitions I see, which was shocking to me at the time, where a newborn was addicted to drugs, and their first experience was to go through withdrawal."
Not all members graduate the program, Judge Claire said. However, many find that becoming sober and regaining parental rights is worth the time, she said.
"Many people come in," she said. "The only thing they have is that they want to change. ... A lot of our graduates, somewhere along the way, they got into it, and they buy into it. It's a way to get your kids back."
On Wednesday, the graduates took turns to thank the program, both of whom said it saved their lives.
"Every day I am truly blessed," one of the graduates said. "I am grateful that I entered the program. My son was at risk. Every day I will appreciate him as I work through sobriety."