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Continued: Addicted mothers in Anoka County gain hope, a future with kids

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 12, 2014 - 9:23 PM

“I struggled with addiction, I was selling drugs, the police raided my house and my daughter was taken from me,” said Erin Keegan, 32, of St. Paul, who graduated from the program in 2012.

“Now I’m clean, I graduated from college and my fiancé and I run our own business cleaning up foreclosed houses,” she said. “I owe it to this program.”

Jackie Fairbanks has been clean for more than five years, but still talks to counselor Julie Allen regularly. Fairbanks doesn’t take her sobriety for granted. She says she was beaten and sexually abused repeatedly as a child. She began drinking at 12.

By 18, blackouts were common. Becoming a mother at 23 changed little. Several arrests followed — for domestic assault and driving while intoxicated, she said. She became a prostitute to earn enough to support her meth habit.

“I asked God, ‘How do I get out of this?’ ”

Her apartment was raided and she told county officials her story. She was introduced to Allen and the enhanced program.

Recalled Fairbanks: “Julie told me that I’d better be on my ­deathbed if I was thinking about missing a ­meeting.”

Her daughter, Tiara Fairbanks, 21, also went through the program. Tiara was 12 when she learned her mother was doing meth. She says another relative molested her repeatedly.

“I was super depressed,” she said. “I wanted to kill myself. I was drunk all the time.”

On June 25, 2011, after a night of drinking, Tiara was driving at 55 miles per hour in Ramsey when her car hit another, killing Christine ­Flaherty, 28, the other driver. Tiara was 19, not old enough to drink legally. Her blood alcohol level was 0.10, above the legal limit for a 21-year-old.

With Allen in the courtroom, Tiara pleaded guilty to felony vehicular criminal homicide. Noting that Tiara had tested clean on 86 urinalysis tests for alcohol use during her year in the Enhanced Treatment Program, Judge Tammi Fredrickson sentenced her to a year in jail and 10 years probation — less than the four-year prison sentence state guidelines suggest. The last four months of jail time are to be served each June over four years to remind Tiara of the month she killed ­Flaherty.

“The day the accident happened was the last day I drank,” she said. “I knew I needed help. This program gives me hope.

“I think about her all the time,” she said of Flaherty. “I’d give anything for that day to have never happened. There are things this program just can’t do.”


Paul Levy • 612-673-4419



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