Jonas’s Story: Father Stays Sober, Finds Full Time Work and Gets Full Parental Rights

Jonas’s Story – Meet Jonas and his three year old son, Nicholas. Jonas, a former drug user in recovery, contacted Vermont Parent Representation Center (VPRC) encouraged by a Department for Children and Families (DCF) investigator. His parents had filed to have guardianship over Nicholas with the probate court and a hearing was scheduled for the next day. Nicholas was living with Jonas’ parents because the child’s mother was also drug addicted and a current user. DCF had an open case with Nicholas’ mother.

Then things got complicated. DCF could no longer support the guardianship with the paternal grandparents because the grandfather had been substantiated for abuse 8 years earlier. In addition, DCF now believed no guardianship was needed but the hearing was the next day. VPRC contacted the DCF Central Office where leaders said that guardianship under these circumstances was not appropriate.

VPRC was unable to attend the hearing because we could not meet with our prospective client. And then things got even more complicated. The probate court issued a guardianship to the paternal grandparents. DCF did not tell the court that VPRC was involved or that they now believed no guardianship would be needed. Further, DCF would not allow Nicholas to be alone with the grandfather when the grandmother worked, and despite Jonas having been to an inpatient treatment program, could show clean urine analysis and was living with his aunt and uncle, DCF would not allow him to take care of his child while his mother, and now legal guardian, worked. So the child had to go to a babysitter!!

The probate court then issued an order that DCF create a reunification plan to be filed it with the court. DCF ignored the order because DCF was not a party to the probate court action despite being the power that had insisted the paternal grandparents file for guardianship.

In the meantime, Jonas got a full time job, stayed clean, and with VPRC legal and social work support, and intense work with the DCF worker, the probate court dismissed the guardianship three months later. The Family Court gave Jonas full parental rights and responsibilities. Nicholas was reunited with his dad,, and has a normal relationship with his grandparents.

Without VPRC’s involvement, this child would still be in a complicated guardianship situation and DCF would still insist on supervised visitation!! DCF will close the case as soon as Nicolas’s mother has a sufficiently safe plan for visits.