Yarrow Collective

Peer-Led Support from Yarrow Collective Helps Families Stay Together

A New Program Gives Community-Based Services in Larimer County

Ashleigh Jones
Training Director and Family Support Advocate
Yarrow Collective

The Yarrow Collective is an independent peer-run organization in Larimer County. From its board of directors to its group facilitators, every person in the organization has lived experience ranging from mental health diagnoses to substance use disorder. The people who make up the collective understand life-interrupting challenges — and all the support that’s needed.

Yarrow Collective offers in-person peer support groups, online support groups and harm reduction resources for adults and young people. In March 2024, Yarrow Collective launched a new initiative in collaboration with Willow Collective, Housing Catalyst, SummitStone Health Partners, and the Larimer County Department of Human Services (DHS) for families navigating substance use with children ages zero to three.

Ashleigh Jones serves as Yarrow’s training director and family support advocate and oversees the program.

“This new initiative is a group of community members really wrapping around these families to provide them with housing, childcare assistance, substance use treatment, family therapy, peer support and primary care. What we’re doing is wrapping around those families trying to keep those kiddos in the home,” she said.

The families they work with are referred to Yarrow by the Department of Human Services. Currently, they are working with three families.

“For two of the families that I'm working with, removal has not happened. So the kiddos are in the home, with the parents. The parents are really working very, very hard toward working through their substance use.”

Ashleigh and her team are wrapping care around each family, and they’ve been very open to all the support offered. Interestingly, each parent she’s working with went through the system themselves, either as a foster child or a child who was removed from their parents.

As a parent in recovery, Ashleigh uses stories from her own lived experience to connect.

“One of the hardest things I’ve noticed is that they are dealing with not only the guilt and shame of having struggles with substance use, but also the shame and struggle around parenting.”

From fear to possibility

Ashleigh spends time with the families and offers support that only a peer in recovery can. The fear these moms face about losing their children is present in their interactions. She can relate to how hard it is to talk about the everyday struggles of being a parent.

“When your child is having a meltdown and it triggers you, being able to talk about those thoughts and feelings without the worry of someone taking it the wrong way – like, am I going to lose my child because I got frustrated or angry?”

She’s able to help the families she works with break down some of that guilt and shame while normalizing the real challenges of being a parent.

“It’s like planting a little mustard seed, lending people my help. I can say: no, my story is not the same. And no, I don’t face the same challenges. But I have been able to move through my struggles, and I am now able to walk alongside you with a nonjudgmental, open attitude. We can learn together and write you a new story.”

Ashleigh and her team practice intentional peer support to help moms move out of fear and into hope and possibility.

“A lot of times when we're struggling with substance use or mental health, there's all of this fear. Fear of relapse. Fear of what might happen if you give something up or you’re never able to do something again,” she said. “We try to help shift the focus away from the fear and into what’s possible. We ask open-ended questions, like what do you want? What can you hope for in your wildest dreams? Where can you take some risks that will allow you to do things you never thought were possible?”

Recovering at home

The families Ashleigh works with are housing insecure. One is working on getting a voucher to stay in her current home. If it doesn’t come through, she won’t be able to pay her rent and will be at risk for homelessness. The other two families have homes but live with people who are actively using substances.

“These moms are trying to keep themselves and their kiddos safe. And it’s a struggle. Having someone in the house using can mean they could lose their kids. I feel for these families. It’s so hard to parent in these circumstances because you’re all in one bedroom and everything is chaotic. It’s amazing what these families are able to do.”

When Ashleigh came out of treatment, she never struggled with housing insecurity because she was able to live with her grandma.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to stay sober with people using in the house. These moms I work with are phenomenal mothers. And everything is stacked against them. They are so kind and so smart and so self aware. I’m gushing, but I’m just so proud of them for doing what they do.”

A mother’s love

Ashleigh’s driven to help moms keep custody of their kids because of her lived experience.

“At the height of my addiction, my son had to go live with his dad for a while. And having that contact taken completely away was so hard. It made me worse, honestly.”

She’s helping moms break through the stigma associated with substance use disorder.

“So many times, I heard personally that if I loved my son, I’d stop using. And I thought there was something wrong with me. But now I know that both of these things can be true. That I can love my son and not be able to stop.”

Shame never worked in her recovery, and she knows it won’t help for the moms she works with, either.

“We have to help them as they learn to let go of the coping mechanism and whatever pain it was covering up.”

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