Hard work helps family reunite

February 22, 2013

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Hard work helps family reunite Heather’s life was going downhill fast; she was virtually homeless and dependent on marijuana. She and her boyfriend had frequent arguments with some escalating to the point of violence. On one particular occasion authorities were called and Heather’s eight month old son, Damian*, was removed from her custody by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Enter Four Oaks Safety and Permanency Services, which works with families involved with child abuse assessments and/or an open DHS case. Program staff members work to serve the children with an eventual goal of reunification when possible. When Heather and Damian first entered the program, the young mother was uncooperative and felt that she had not done anything wrong. Nearing a point of losing custody of her son permanently and continuing to have unstable housing, Heather learned that she was pregnant with her second child. A switch flipped in her head and Heather was ready to work to regain custody of her son. Heather was paired with Safety and Permanency staff person  Joanne Spencer, who she felt that she could relate to. 

Heather still had many obstacles to overcome. She wanted to be able to keep her boyfriend Chris* in her life for the sake of her unborn daughter and she wanted her son Damian back. To accomplish these goals, and with Joanne’s guidance, both Heather and Chris enrolled in substance abuse treatment and Chris attended classes to prevent future violence in the home. They both found solid jobs, stable housing and began to work toward reunification with Damian. Heather began taking much needed medication for depression and anxiety. In July, Heather welcomed daughter Cally* and in September, Damian came home on a trial home placement.

Now Heather is anxiously awaiting the case to be closed so that she can help those that are in similar situations. Heather wants to become a Parent Partner and work with families entering DHS. Heather states, “It’s the worst feeling in the world to have your kid taken away; having someone to talk to that understands and has actually been through it helps a lot.”

Four Oaks staff person Joanne Spencer relates, “Heather went from a custody termination petition to return of custody. She is a success story about defying the odds.” Looking back on where they have been, Heather shares, “I used to think I wasn’t doing anything wrong and now I get it. What I was doing was not right and I am glad Four Oaks was there to help me.”

* Names changed to protect privacy.