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Baby Steps 2012
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  • BAMBI—Rico in doorway

    Twenty-one-year-old Ericah Rico's drug habit began when she was just 15. Introduced to her by a family member, cocaine and heroin quickly became her drugs of choice. She was arrested numerous times for stealing, which she says she did to support her habit. She has spent nearly half her one-year jail term at the Bonita House, the housing unit for the Babies and Mothers Bonding Initiative (BAMBI). She was released Dec. 8, 2011. These images were taken during her final days in the program.
  • BAMBI—Ms Liz's office

    Rico visits Liz Moore, also known as Ms. Liz, BAMBI's program manager. The women flock to her for assistance and advice, or just when they need someone to talk to. "I trust Ms. Liz," says Rico. "She gets it."
  • BAMBI—Celi

    Rico's second child, Araceli, affectionally called "Celi," is nearly 6 months old. With big eyes and tufts of hair that splay like peacock feathers, Celi was constantly cooed and cuddled by BAMBI residents and workers. "The babies here do not lack love or affection," says Ms. Liz.
  • BAMBI—donation table

    Rico stops at a table in the Bonita House courtyard to inspect items donated by the community. She eventually took a baseball cap she planned to give as a gift to her children's father.
  • BAMBI—stockings on wall

    The shared living space in the BAMBI unit. The women decorated stockings for their children, counselors and supervisors.
  • BAMBI—mickey mouse card

    Rico shows off a card she received from one of her brothers. Also incarcerated, he is expecting to be paroled in the near future. Rico has six siblings but says she still speaks to only two brothers.
  • BAMBI—stairway

    Rico gave birth to her first child, Julian, at age 20, just two weeks before she was released from jail. Julian stayed with Rico's mother and grandmother during that time. Seven months later, Rico found herself back in jail and pregnant again with Celi. She endured heroin withdrawal without any drug assistance to not endanger her unborn child.
  • BAMBI—nursing room

    Case manager Nicole Coley, also known as Miss Nikki, stands next to Ms. Liz as they speak with other mothers in the program.
  • BAMBI—Celi teething

    Rico comforts a fussy and feverish Celi, who is teething. "Celi has known me from day one. I wish I could go home and see [Julian], and he'll run up to me and know who I am but I don't think that's going to happen. Eventually it will, but not right away like I wish it would."
  • BAMBI—Rico & Celi outside

    Rico heads out to the Fiesta market nearby. The women are taken on supervised outings where they can receive money wire transfers or buy formula through WIC—the Women, Infants and Children program.
  • BAMBI—bible reading

    Rico reads from the Bible during her Abiding Faith Spirituality group session.
  • BAMBI—prayer circle

    The Abiding Faith Spirituality group says the Serenity prayer before finishing session.
  • BAMBI—Rico, Nikki, Ashley

    Miss Nikki and Ashley Allen, center, talk to Rico about getting her GED. "Rico, I know you can do it. But I'm afraid if you get out there and wait too long, it's not going to happen," says Miss Nikki. "I know, Miss Nikki" says Rico. "I'm afraid of that, too." Rico dropped out of school after 8th grade. She has been attending GED prep classes while in BAMBI.
  • BAMBI—crib

    Celi having a quiet moment in the front room of the housing unit.
  • BAMBI—case manager office

    Later that evening, Miss Nikki summoned Rico to her office to email inquiries on taking the GED. Miss Nikki often voiced her faith in Rico, but she also knows the reality that BAMBI is limited in helping the women. Once they are released, they have the difficult task of creating a new life in an environment that often led them to jail in the first place.
  • BAMBI—through mirror

    Rico sits in her substance abuse counselor's office for her last outpatient therapy session. She says her kids and her career aspirations are her main reasons for staying clean. "When I get my GED I plan on going to cosmetology school. And then I'm going to take the financial aid test to see if I can get that, because then I can get daycare and then I can go to school. I can't wait."
  • BAMBI—counselor

    Rico discusses with Angela Gort, her counselor, the difficult situations she'll face once she's home. "I've spent my 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays incarcerated. I wasn't able to be there for my son. I don't want to do this anymore."
  • BAMBI—bottle detail

    Many of the women in the BAMBI program have family members with similar issues. Rico's mother became pregnant with her first child at the age of 12 and is currently on methadone maintenance, a treatment to help stop injected drug use.
  • Bambi Signing Papers

    Rico signs her final papers on the day of her release. No one in Rico's family has visited her in the year she's been away. Both her family and Celi's father have only seen pictures of Celi, and Rico's concerned that her son won't know her. Rico will live with her children and her older brother who works in the oil fields and rents a two-bedroom apartment.
  • BAMBI—hug

    Angelo gives Rico one last hug.
  • BAMBI—crib

    Rico pauses for a final look in Celi's crib to make sure she's gathered all her belongings.
  • BAMBI—garbage bag

    Much of the clothing and toys are donations to BAMBI.
  • BAMBI—packing

    The other women help Rico pack for her trip back home.
  • BAMBI—Vanessa rolling clothes

    Vanessa, Rico's roommate and closest friend in the program, rolls Rico's belongings for easier packing.
  • BAMBI—Ericah suitcase

    Rico's excitement grows each hour knowing that soon she'll be home.
  • BAMBI—Ericah hair clip

    Rico attaches her new hair clip—a parting gift from Miss Nikki.
  • BAMBI—group therapy goodbye

    Rico visits group therapy to say goodbye to everyone.
  • BAMBI—Rico & Ms Liz packing

    The morning of Dec. 8 was frantic as Ms. Liz hustled to make travel arrangements for Rico. The night before, Rico learned that her mother would not be picking her up as promised. Ms. Liz retrieved a one-way Greyhound ticket, paid for by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Because of Greyhound's luggage policy, Rico would need to repack her belongings and leave some things behind, including Celi's favorite swing.
  • BAMBI—Ms Liz driving

    "This is a teachable moment, Rico," says Ms. Liz. "When that little girl asks you for a ride to the dance or the mall, and you say yes, you remember what it feels like when your mother lets you down." Rico said at first she was angry with her mom, but then let it pass. her mother had made earlier promises—money and boxes of clothing for Celi that never came. Rico says the BAMBI program taught her the importance of being self-reliant and not expecting friends and family to help her out of a situation she put herself in.
  • BAMBI—greyhound station

    Just moments after saying goodbye to Ms. Liz, Rico kisses Celi as they wait in line at the Greyhound station. In just a few more hours, they would be home.

Twenty-one-year-old Ericah Rico's drug habit began when she was just 15. Introduced to her by a family member, cocaine and heroin quickly became her drugs of choice. She was arrested numerous times for stealing, which she says she did to support her habit. She has spent nearly half her one-year jail term at the Bonita House, the housing unit for the Babies and Mothers Bonding Initiative (BAMBI). She was released Dec. 8, 2011. These images were taken during her final days in the program.

Read more about the Babies and Mothers Bonding Initiative in "Baby Steps" by Diana Claitor.