By Michael Roberts
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While at the halfway house, Audrey was able to get joint custody of her children, all three of whom were living with their father. That summer, she recited a seven-page speech about her recovery to U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske when he visited Denver for the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where JI-DEF was nominated for an award. Later, she appeared on a local news segment, a poster girl for JI-DEF.
Katie was doing better, too. She'd moved back in with her mom and stepdad and landed a warehouse job, and she'd stayed clean from April to September 2009. But then, when testifying in a drug case, she met one of her old drug friends and ended up getting high. She stopped taking drug tests, and a glitch in the probation department's tracking system failed to alert anyone to the change. Still, the fact that she was failing the people who'd worked so hard to help her weighed heavily on Katie.
"They'd spent so much time and effort and built up so much trust, and then I turned around and lied to their face," she says. "That felt horrible, just as bad as if I'd lied to my mom or something."
Addison, Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore had no problem seeing through those lies. Last November, they told Katie she was being sent to STAR-TC, an intensive in-patient treatment program in Pueblo.
On December 8, Katie drove down to Pueblo with her mother and Audrey. When they stopped for gas or bathroom breaks, Katie would sneak off to smoke meth — with Audrey in tow.
Just a few weeks earlier, the halfway house had agreed to Audrey's early release to the care of her mother and stepfather. The two had welcomed Audrey back into their home after she'd appeared on their doorstep with a drug counselor, as stipulated. Audrey had been sober for seven months.
She and Katie had celebrated by getting high.
A massive whiteboard that takes up an entire wall of Rajaee-Moore's office in the probation department outlines the $12 million in state and federal grants that JI-DEF has won over the last three years, as well as additional funding sources she's hoping to score.
Rajaee-Moore had quickly discovered her program had more potential than just pairing kids and cops — although that was going well. Preliminary data showed that the youths assigned LEAs were more likely to stay in contact with their police mentors after their probation was up than any of their other assigned contacts, such as probation officers or clinicians — and they were more likely to reach out to their LEAs in times of crisis, too.
In 2006, Rajaee-Moore was at a seminar focusing on the growing problem of substance-exposed newborns when she realized she'd missed one of the most devastating aspects of drug abuse. "I was sitting there thinking, 'Oh, my God, for the last ten years, the thousands of families we have worked with and we knew there were kids in the home, we knew there were children and younger siblings in the home and we didn't do anything,'" she recalls. "It's hard to open a case for child welfare, since you have to prove something bad is going on. But just because you don't open a case doesn't mean these kids don't have needs that aren't being addressed. We never asked about who these kids were, unless the kid showed up with a gash on his face."
After wrangling another $1.5 million for the program, Rajaee-Moore expanded JI-DEF to include meth-addicted mothers and their children.
Despite the program's success, it wasn't always easy getting overworked probation officers to take a look at this family-centered approach to probation and refer appropriate clients to JI-DEF. "I think any time you try to change things up and do something different, there is always that challenge of people having their belief systems of how other agencies work and don't work," says Jason Romportl, a Denver probation supervisor working with JI-DEF.
It helped that Jerry Maroney, the state court administrator for the Colorado Department of Justice, and Chief Probation Officer Shawn Cohn had what Rajaee-Moore calls "a progressive outlook on how to work with probation-involved families." Rajaee-Moore and her colleagues were also as dogged as bloodhounds, regularly visiting the county jail on recognizance, looking for addicts who'd benefit from their program.
That effort made a difference. Before she started the meth-addicted mothers program, Rajaee-Moore had been told she'd never find any drug-endangered kids who weren't already involved with child-welfare departments; over the past few years, the program has identified roughly 600 of them. And those aren't JI-DEF's only striking stats. Eighty to 85 percent of its clients are eventually successfully discharged, a rate 50 percent higher than that of most substance-abuse programs, according to Stuart Readio, a corrections specialist evaluating TASC's programs.
And now that program has expanded again, to include drug-addicted young fathers.
JI-DEF continues to attract notice. This year, the program was a finalist for the United States Substance and Mental Health Services Administration's Service to Science Award; in 2009 and again this year, it was a finalist for the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Weber Seavey Award, which honors the most innovative law enforcement programs worldwide.