2010 Prize Winner
Leah Hall, a confident, likable mother of four, has been clean for over seven years, but before then things werent so good. Hall, 33, grew up in a family of alcoholics, and spent her early adult life addicted to methamphetamines. By the time she entered a residential treatment center at age 25, she was facing the prospect of prison time and her eldest daughter had been placed in temporary foster care.
These days, Hall works as a parent mentor for Morrison Child and Family Services, helping people in situations similar to the one she escaped.
The name is misleading, she says. We dont teach any parenting classeswe mentor parents. Specifically, parents whose children have been removed by the state. Halls job is to help them learn to function as people so they can get clean, get a job and get their kids back.
On a typical day, Hall will take her clients to 12-step meetings, or just out for coffee. Shell teach them how to shop on a budget, or help them find employment or housing. Three days a week, she goes to the county courthouse to help parents through preliminary hearings. She fills out paperwork. She helps them heal.
The hardest part was when I came to the realization that not all parents get their kids back, and that its probably in the best interest of the child that they dont go home, Hall says. But thats not how it usually goes. Seventy-five percent of the mothers Hall mentors get sober and have their children returned. (Only half the parents who go through the process unassisted are successful.)
I see parents that Ive mentored in the community, and theyre still clean, Hall says. One of them is now a parent mentor herself. Hall is humble in the face of her success as a mentor.
To even be nominated for something like [the Skidmore Prize] is amazing. When they called to tell me Id won, I kept thinking they were lying, she says. Do they know who I am? Seven years ago I was on my way to prison. Sometimes I wake up and think, Is this really my life?