As some of you may already know, I recently welcomed my youngest son Tanner into this world. So far he has brought indescribable joy to my life and his siblings. Tanner was an unexpected addition to my family, but I already can't imagine my life without him. Unfortunately, the joy of bringing this precious new life home has been over-shadowed by the nightmare of my past.
I'm very proud to say I've been in recovery for three years, and have successfully remained sober and have set, and surpassed many new goals for myself and my children. I am a successful Family Support Specialist and Medication Assisted Treatment Advocate for the FRESH Start Program. I have completed numerous trainings/certifications in both Recovery and Parenting. I have been honored to speak at The Massachusetts Health Policy Forum on Substance Exposed Newborns, Schwartz Grand Rounds, and Brown-Bag Lunch at Bay State Hospital, (and was invited back a third time) along with numerous other venues including The Through Her Eyes Conference with Keynote speaker David Peltzer, and most recently have been invited to be a panelist on a national television show about Recovery. I feel I've worked hard to accomplish all this, with the best reward being I've been able to re-connect with my daughter Ashley, and have been welcomed in by her adoptive family.
You would think with all the work I've done, I would be able to step out of the shadow of my past mistakes. That there is truth in the statement "people can change". I myself, believe I am not the same person I was three years ago, I carry the knowledge of where I would be without sobriety, as well as the memory of where I was before, but I am no where near that person. I entered into treatment three years ago because I found out I was pregnant with Tyler. When I gave birth to him I was on 80mgs of methadone. After I delivered, The Department of Children and Families stepped in, crying "History" and took custody of my son. This lasted about 12 hours until the judge over-turned their decision and gave my son back to me, willing to give me a shot at being a parent again. I took this amazing opportunity and ran with it! I ran as far away, in the opposite direction, from that "History" as I possibly could, and I got to where I am today.
Naturally, when I found out I was pregnant with Tanner, and not yet off methadone, (I was on 15mgs) I freaked out! I spent the majority of my pregnancy, dreading my impending show down with the Department. The irony of this situation is I now work with DCF on a daily basis. One of the requirements for entry into my program is involvement with them, so I spend plenty of time in contact with the hard working social workers in my area. Because of this, my supervisors and I spoke with the Department ahead of time to try to ease this process while protecting my relationship with their employees. For those of you that don't know, in the state of Massachusetts, when a baby is born on methadone the hospital must file a 51a(emergency removal of custody). So, I went into the hospital with a plan, or so I thought, that my case would run smoothly through the system, open and shut, simple. Yeah right!
Once again, I've been swindled by DCF. I thought for sure, I was in the clear, they would do what's called an "Initial Assessment", I would get a phone call and we'd be done, I could move on with my life and parent my two youngest children. Instead, they somehow managed to "misread" my drug screens and told me I had tested positive on a few test! What! Are you serious! The best part about that statement was they couldn't even tell me what I tested positive for, obviously because, I haven't been positive for an illicit substance in over three years! I'm appalled by the lack of competence that has been applied to my case. Now because of their mistake, I am under investigation by the Department, they entered my home, checked my fridge and my cabinets for food, pulled the blankets off my sleeping two year old to make sure he was OK. They will be calling my pediatrician and embarrassing me while tarnishing my reputation, and when they're done with that, they will call everyone who works as part of my support system and my treatment providers. When that's done, they will decided whether or not I can keep my kids, with or without their "services". And to top it off, this will all go on my CORI, so next time I apply for a job, I get to explain why I've been found guilty of neglect!
Yes, NEGLECT. I will never understand how being in a treatment program for Substance Use Disorder, and remaining sober can constitute neglect. The worst part is I feel like I'm reliving the nightmare of losing my children, all over again. Going to bed at night worrying if they will be at my door in the morning, because I made poor choices seven years ago. What happened to "Double Jeopardy"? Our legal system protects us from being charged with the same crime twice, then why is it the Department of Children and Families can punish us for the same thing over and over and over again!?
As I await the decision of the ever-powerful Department there is one thing I am grateful for, it has re-ignited my fire for policy change. I have a renewed desire to fight for the rights of mothers in recovery. Substance Use is a disease, just like cancer, it takes over every cell in your body and often requires medical treatment ot overcome. Seeking treatment should not be a punishable offense, yet rather an act that is nurtured and praised. If we as a society start to dissolve the stigma around recovery and advocate for change maybe substance use wouldn't be such an epidemic in this country. Many woman do not seek treatment for fear of losing their children and it's wrong. Do I think everyone in recovery can be a fit parent, absolutely not, but they should be given the chance to change, and if they make the necassary changes they should be allowed to parent their children without interruption from the state.
So, for those of you that pray, please keep my family in your prayers, that we may live through this trying time, and come out the other side, stronger and more secure than when we started. Thanks, and I will update my blog as soon as I hear from DCF.