Coffee County Safe Baby Court, a specialized court program established for infants and toddlers, birth to 3 years old, to connect families with their communities and provide a strong foundation for infant mental health, held its second graduation Friday, Dec. 20.
Five fathers, Tauris Maymi, Louis Johnson, Ryan Perry, Ronnie Parks and Rex Sherrill, graduated the program.
“We are thrilled at what this day means for (these men’s) 12 children,” said Drug Court Executive Director Mike Lewis during the graduation. “We’re here to celebrate the work of five dads.”
Lewis noted that two of the graduates have gone from being homeless just over a year ago to now being in a situation to regain custody of their children.
Lewis added that each dad received full custody of their children and the Department of Children Services’ case was closed.
Magistrate Stacy Lynch said that the court gives participants a support system to give life-long skills necessary to make lasting changes to care for their children.
Lynch introduced each of the graduates, listed anecdotes and gave each a chance to speak.
“I could not be more proud of the five gentlemen who are here today. You are a truly an inspiration,” she said.
This is the first graduation following the passing of Coffee County Drug Court founder Judge Tim Brock.
“We’re dedicated to the reality of making Safe Baby Court a living memorial to the judge who founded it,” Lewis said.
Lynch, in a tearful tribute, lit a memorial candle dedicated to Brock who passed away unexpectedly Nov. 11 during a judicial conference.
“It warms my heart to see so many who have given so much to make this program a success,” she said. “To have that vision, to see the difference that this program is making already…has been inspirational.
“Judge Brock will always be here in Coffee County. He will be here because of the program(s) … that he has started. He will always be here to watch over us and to share with us,” Lynch said.
Judge Brock launched the program; worked for its success
Coffee County was among the first in the state to launch the Safe Baby Court, and it was the first county to hold a Safe Baby Court graduation.
Today, there are seven Safe Baby Courts in Tennessee, with five more planned for 2020, according to Lewis.
Thanks to Brock, who started the program and deeply cared about the members, the initiative has become a success.
Brock saw the participants in the program not for their mistakes or any of the consequences that preceded their appearance in front of him, he saw them as people, who found themselves in difficult circumstances asking for help, said Lewis.
Sheila Barrera, Safe Baby Court coordinator, said Brock’s goal was providing a happy future for children.
“Judge Brock started Safe Baby Court,” Barrera said. “Without him, Coffee County Safe Baby Court might not have been possible. Judge Brock believed in treatment for addiction and felt that a family-centered approach is needed to reunite children with their parents; and if reunification isn't possible, then children need treatment, therapy, and support to be able to form attachments with others, and to be able to be happy, healthy, nurturing adults themselves one day.”