Woodbury County graduates first class of family drug court - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Woodbury County graduates first class of family drug court

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- Ten people started the next chapter in their lives Thursday night. Woodbury County's Family Drug Court graduated its first class, clean and sober.

The Family Drug Court program, started last year, doesn't replace the regular court system. Instead it acts as a backup, another way to hold people accountable. It also provides what organizers call a more encouraging and supportive setting than a traditional courtroom.

Family Court judge Brian Michaelson says, "This gives another avenue of the court to keep our families together or if they've been separated, to reunite them so we don't have the end result of having to terminate parental rights."

The program, which is federally funded through 2013, meets every week.

While there are ten success stories, it takes a long time to get there. Janet Benning started using methamphetamine when she was 14 years old. Now as a mother, she's trying to make sure her own children don't make the same mistake.

"Since August of 2007 I've been clean and sober," Benning says.

The 31-year-old knows what life is like on both sides of sobriety, even though much of her past is difficult to remember.

Benning says, "Kind of like flashes, you know, like, you don't really remember a whole lot."

But a visit from Child Protective Services was enough to make it clear.

"Once I realized how serious it was that my daughter could be taken from me, I woke up, because I'm not gonna lose my daughter for anything."

When a counselor from the Department of Human Services suggested Family Drug Court, Benning knew what she had to do.

Benning says the program helped hold her accountable with weekly meetings and was a strong ally in making sure she was sober. She says family drug court drew a firm line: You only have one life and the best life is drug-free.

Benning says, "It's an educational experience. It's very positive for somebody. It gives everybody that little push of self esteem to help 'em keep going."

Because when you're battling an addiction, you can use all the help you can get.

"I can't imagine ever, ever being a user."

Aside from being off meth, Janet Benning has some other big news. She's expecting another child, and says she's excited to bring this one up in a clean and sober environment.

Benning says she won't hide her past from her 8-year-old daughter, and her child on the way. She says she'd rather educate them so they don't go what she went through.

Online Reporter: Zach Tecklenburg

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