Melony Holmes gave up her daughter five years ago.

Addicted to drugs and alcohol, Holmes asked Philadelphia's Department of Human Services for help. For two years, she struggled to get clean while her kindergartner celebrated birthdays at her aunt's.

In 2013, Holmes was notified that the goal of her case was no longer to reunite her with her little girl, but to put Mahy'di up for adoption.

But soon, Turning Points for Children, a DHS community provider, stepped in. It assigned caseworker Serenna Evers, who Holmes said brought something she'd been missing: hope.

"She cried with me, she talked with me, she's seen me get frustrated, go through the fight - and she helped me stay focused," Holmes said.

Today, Holmes, 49 and living in North Philadelphia, has been sober for two years; has regained custody of Mahy'di, now 10; and works at Turning Points coaching parents.

Hers is the kind of story child-welfare advocates hold up as a sign of improvements at DHS.

Evers said that's the new focus: reunite parents with kids, and provide help in the form of community support.

"The issue with Mel was that, because she wasn't really receiving continuity of care, they didn't see all the progress she had made," Evers said. "She finally had this revelation, 'I've got to get myself together.' And she did."

Holmes likes to remind parents of their strengths.

"You have to let them know, 'You're not the only one that's been through this,' " she said. "You have to encourage them, remind them, 'this, too, shall pass.' " - Julia Terruso