Mother Overcomes Addiction – Reunited With Daughter

I have three children, Peter age 9, Paul age 6, and Mary age 2. On Paul’s first birthday, his father committed suicide. I felt overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety and for the first time used illegal drugs. I soon became addicted and entered a long period of substance abuse. I met my now husband, and together we led a life which was all wrapped up in illegal drugs. Three years ago, DCF brought a petition for neglect. My boys went to live with my sister temporarily, although I saw them and took care of them every day.

After a while my sister felt she could no longer care for them. I was clean and the court gave me the boys back. DCF said in all their documents and in court that I was a very good mom who met all of my boys’ needs when I was sober. I had Mary shortly thereafter, and I relapsed after her birth. My husband went to jail for three years for a drug offense and his sister in law took all three children for a few months. After that my mother in law took the baby. My boys went to a relative of my husband’s. Then my oldest boy went to live with his father out of state.

I struggled with my sobriety for another 6 months. Throughout all of this DCF, the judge, and all the lawyers agreed that if I entered residential care at the Lund Center, achieved stability and stayed clean, it would be in Paul’s and Mary’s best interests to join me there and we would be reunited. The judge said that he would give me four months to show progress and set another status conference in 6 weeks. I entered the Lund program after a short stay at a drug residential treatment program, but learned at intake that Paul was too old to be able to live with me there.

Then DCF told me that they would terminate my parental rights and I had two options: 1. I could fight it and lose all rights to see Paul. 2. I could agree to let my husband’s relative adopt Paul and I could see him as much as I wanted. My husband’s relative urged me to let her adopt and told me that I was his mother and she would never keep Paul from me. No one told me that the judge could give me a third option – to continue with visits with Paul and reunify with him after finishing the Lund program successfully. I understand now that the judge had left that option open.

I tried to call my lawyer many times to better understand what all this meant but never received any return phone calls. I found out later that she had retired and no one had told me. I was on my own, and I gave into the pressures and agreed to let my husband’s relative adopt Paul so that I would not lose him completely. The State filed a termination of parental rights petition which I did not see until I came to the status conference. This hearing turned into a “voluntary” termination of my parental rights. I was given a new attorney who knew nothing about the plan for Paul to come to Lund with me. He spent a few minutes explaining what the ton of paper work meant in language I did not understand, including one which waived my rights to be part of any future hearings regarding Paul. We never discussed what had happened to the plan for Paul to come with me to Lund, nor any other options I may have had.

I continued to see Paul while at Lund for a few times, but then all visits stopped even though I was clean and sober. DCF told me that the visits were not good for Paul because he wanted to come home with me after each visit. I then learned about Vermont Parent Representation Center and contacted them. The VPRC lawyer fought to get my file, explained in ways I could understand what had happened to my case, and filed motions in court to overturn the termination of parental rights. I finished the Lund program successfully. Paul has not been adopted and I have been clean and sober for over a year. I got Mary back, I have a full time job, a subsidized apartment and I should be able to be Paul’s mom. The court denied it all. I do not have any more strength to fight this. Had I had VPRC from the beginning, I am convinced that Paul and Mary would be together with me. We deserve being together and that will not happen now.