Parents may be summoned into Court because their children are in need of protection or services, either because the child has such severe issues that the parents simply cannot meet them or, more tragically, because the parents’ actions require the Court’s intervention for the child’s safety. Some of the most difficult and tragic cases involve parents whose use of controlled substances jeopardizes their child’s safety and their relationship to their child.
I had a case some time ago involving two young parents who were in such a situation. The Father had a bad chemical dependency problem. The case had been pending for several months, and Father was ordered to be drug free in order to see his son.
At this hearing, the son, who was about 18 months old, was brought to court and as soon as he saw his Dad, he climbed into his lap, and stayed there for the entire hearing.
I heard the reports from the social worker and the Guardian ad Litem. I heard the statements of the attorney for the County and the attorney for each of the parents. I then had this conversation with the Father, taken from the Court Reporter’s notes:
THE COURT: Father, when was the last time you saw your son before today?
FATHER: About a month and a half, two months.
THE COURT: How can you stay away from such a beautiful child, who obviously loves you? He doesn’t want anything more today than to sit on his daddy’s lap. I just can’t comprehend it. I was just visiting my grandson who is about two months younger than your son. There is nothing better than doing just what he’s doing now – snuggling up on his daddy’s chest. How can you not do everything in your power to let him do that? Do these drugs have such a control over you that you love them more than you love your son?
We are at a time now where I’m going to have to make a really hard decision and that decision might be that you will never see your son again. I don’t want to make that decision. I don’t want to do that. And very honestly, I won’t do it. You’ll make the decision for me.
Sad to say, often the drugs win. Even with the support of the County’s resources, treatment programs and the threat of losing the right to parent or even see one’s own child is not enough to overcome the apparently irresistible pull of the pill, needle or bottle.
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Next Week: Cameras in the Courtroom