How Minor Substance Use Can Lead to Separation
When her mother could not care for her, Jose took custody of his 12-day-old daughter. He was just 21, but because he had grown up in foster care, he was willing to do whatever it took to prevent the same from happening to his daughter. Jose worked two jobs and relied on help from members of his church for childcare. He willingly moved into a family shelter because the court did not allow him to maintain custody if he continued living with his child’s mother.
While living at the shelter, Jose’s tooth became infected and had to be pulled out. Without health insurance and unable to afford medication, Jose was in terrible pain. Feeling that he had no other way of coping, he bought a $5 bag of marijuana. But during a search of his room, shelter staff found the bag. They called children’s services and the young father was charged with neglect. Jose had no idea that when he went to Family Court for the first time, his daughter would be removed from his care that day. Their separation was extremely traumatic and both father and daughter were inconsolable. Even though members of Jose’s church offered to take his daughter into their homes, his daughter was placed in foster care with strangers, without any of her own toys or clothing to ease the transition.
Jose’s CFR team advocated for liberal visits with his daughter and helped him find a drug treatment program that could accommodate his work schedule. While complying with all the court’s requirements, he continued to work two jobs and visit regularly with his daughter. Having lost his place at the family shelter, Jose moved into the home of his church deacon. Due to his move to another borough, Jose could no longer be CFR’s client, but his former CFR social worker continued to provide him with advice and assistance.
Because of his compliance with services and his obvious care for his daughter, the court eventually offered an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) so that the charges against his would be dismissed. With the support of friends and their church community, Jose and his daughter are now living happily together.
Jose and CFR Executive Director Susan Jacobs were featured in a New York Times article on minor marijuana charges on August 17, 2011.
Photo by Michael Kamber for The New York Times
Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company