Oftentimes, parents can’t wait to have DHS (and everyone else associated with their DHS/Court Involvement) out of their life—and understandably so. It’s months, if not years, of having people scrutinizing your life, your choices, and your relationships. But sometimes, when all that support, and yes, all that scrutiny, suddenly goes away, parents struggle. And sometimes relapse.
Recently, a parent in our state did just that—and died, a mere week after the child was returned and the case closed. It was heartbreaking for the family and the professionals working with that family. It’s always a good day when you get to reunify children with their parents. But when they relapse and die shortly thereafter…
Here are some thoughts I have about safely transitioning out of DHS/Court-Involvement:
- If you were doing therapy during your court case,don’t stop just because your case closes. That extra support will be really important to you as you transition from an open case to a closed one. Your therapist can also alert you if s/he sees behavior that may lead you down a path you shouldn’t be going down.
- Continue after care treatment programs. This might be AA or NA, or something else, but again, the additional support will be vital for your success.
- If you have a substance use disorder, stay away from the people you were using with. I don’t care how committed you are to your sobriety, you cannot rely on willpower alone. You must change habits, people, and sometimes even the environment that triggers the behavior leading to using. That may sound harsh, but your health and the safety of your children are more important than “friends” you use with.
- If you have been involved in a domestic violence relationship, you hopefully have a domestic violence advocate. That person can help you stay safe and out of those types of relationships. Relationship violence is not healthy, and it’s unlikely the abuser will change without intensive intervention, no matter how many promises he makes, or how sincere she sounds. And it can lead to another removal—or worse.
- Make new, positive friends, and stay connected to your family, if they’re healthy. The parents I see who are most likely to be successful both during the process and afterwards are those who have a strong, positive support system. This should likely include professionals, but should also include non-professionals. In addition to family and friends, you can build relationships with coworkers, other parents from your kids’ school or extra-curricular activities, at a church, synagogue, mosque, or other house of faith, or places where you might volunteer.
- Focus on your kids. If you find yourself struggling to parent them, you can take a parenting class (many are free, and there is a list on the resources page). Additionally, figure out what respite care might look like before you need it. Who could you call to watch your kids so you could have a break?
- Don’t try to do everything alone. In case you haven’t notice, much of this post is about support—professionals, non-professionals, groups, etc. Raising kids is hard; don’t try to do it all on your own. Ask for help when you need it.