The Fix: Mothers and Babies in Crisis Follow-up

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) "I thought she was a normal 18-year-old. You know, going out with friends, hanging out. She had a boyfriend, everything was normal. And then I got a phone call that she was arrested for possession of heroin in Massachusetts," mom Amy Rawling said. "My heart broke... It's not the life I wanted my daughter to have... I'd love to be able to give everything and make everything better and make everything perfect, but I can't do that. I am not educated in that area."

We continue our special report "The Fix: Mothers and Babies in Crisis" with that woman's desperate plea for someone to help her struggling daughter, Miranda Sevene.

Here's where they were one month ago: A 24-year-old woman addicted to heroin, locked up, scared and nine months pregnant, her family desperate to hold onto to her second baby born dependent on drugs.

Shortly after producing our first report, Miranda went into labor. She and her mom, Amy, were both excited but also afraid of what would happen once the baby was born. Outside Miranda's UVM Medical Center room door stood guards.

"Miranda is a federal detainee right now, so no family. I did get permission to be there for when the birth happens, but that's it," Amy explained.

Hours later, it happened. Miranda gave birth to her baby girl.

For two hours, grandmother, mother and baby were at peace. Then reality struck. Miranda is a federal prisoner and Amy's visiting hours were over.

Amy shared with our Celine McArthur how painful it was to walk away as she left the hospital. "Two hours after birth, and I'm leaving my daughter in the hospital alone with two guards. She had a beautiful 6-pound, 13-ounce baby girl, was 19-and-a-half-inches long. Her name is Elleana Grace Sevene Everything about her is perfect. She's amazing. And I have to leave her here in this strange place, with nobody... Words can't explain the pain I'm feeling right now, that she must be feeling. She won't be able to call me for a few days. I don't have any idea what's going on."

Miranda spent two days with Elleana before she was sent back to the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. The Department for Children and Families awarded Amy's sister Jennette temporary custody of Elleana until Miranda's federal case is over.

"It's just a difficult situation," said Mark Oettinger, Miranda's attorney.

No cameras are allowed inside the federal courtroom. Miranda wrote a three-page letter and read it before the judge.

"You've got somebody who has committed a crime, she was very clear about accepting responsibility, she's very contrite, you know, she demonstrated while she was on release, she was able to work solidly for almost a year," Oettinger said. "So it's a question of getting over the opioid addiction, being given a chance to be reunited with the baby and hopefully turning a corner."

Judge William Sessions told Miranda she would be sentenced to time served, followed by three years of probation as long as she successfully completes the residential drug rehab program at the Lund Family Center in Burlington for new mothers and their babies. The only problem: no available beds.

"Most young women who are pregnant, who are planning to go to Lund, who are accepted at Lund, have several months' worth of advanced notice, if you will. In her case, this all came on rather quickly, so they're doing their best to accommodate her," Oettinger said. "We have a pretty good sense that it's going to be within the next two, three or four weeks."

Until then, Miranda will remain behind bars.

"He just didn't feel comfortable releasing her under circumstances in which something bad could happen between leaving the courthouse and reporting to Lund," Oettinger said.

Hanna Sheltra /Miranda's younger sister: I wanted her to come home.
Celine McArthur: Do you miss her?
Hanna Sheltra: Yeah, a lot.

"She has lost two-and-a-half weeks of bonding time and now it could be another two-and-a-half weeks, where if she was home, she could have had that... spend days with her," Amy said.

Days later, a spot opens up at Lund and the judge agrees to let Miranda go.

"I am so happy, so happy, so happy. This time when I leave her, I am not going to be leaving crying, sad. I am going to be leaving her happy," Amy said.
"No handcuffs, no shackles, no uniform, a free woman," Miranda said.

Celine McArthur: You have a level of freedom today that you haven't had in a while.
Miranda Sevene: It feels great. And the probation, it's a security thing for me. It keeps me accountable for my actions and other things that could happen down the road... that I always have that resource and the help there.
Celine McArthur: What's your biggest fear?
Miranda Sevene: Um, relapse?
Celine McArthur: But you have a plan now...
Miranda Sevene: Yep.
Celine McArthur: You want the Vivitrol.
Miranda Sevene: I want the Vivitrol. I've got Lund, which has tons of resources, they help you with many things. And I've got my probation officer, which will be supportive, as well, and hold me accountable for things when I start slipping.
Celine McArthur: You have quite the support system.
Miranda Sevene: I do. I'm lucky.
Celine McArthur: How excited are you to be reunited with your baby?
Miranda Sevene: I am overly excited. I cannot wait! It will be nice to be able to have her and not just see her for a couple of hours. To be able to just be a mom and be an adult that I should be.

Coming up this weekend on a special edition of "You Can Quote Me," we take a closer look at Miranda's treatment plan, how it came together and how she's doing with Elleana. Plus, an in-studio panel of experts to answer your questions. Just email them to Celine at McArthur@wcax.com.