Parenting Apart – Steven’s Call

Steven called Parent Help in April, 2010 because he was having problems with his fiancée, Janet. While Steven and Janet had been in a relationship for 3 years, it became apparent to Steven that Janet was a substance abuser, although she was able to keep her habit hidden from him for a full year. Janet assured Steven that she had overcome her substance abuse issues, and they continued their relationship and conceived a daughter, Emma.

Janet suffered a relapse soon after Emma was born. Consequently, she and Steven split up. Steven later discovered from Janet’s mom that Janet had been challenged by her substance abuse for 20 years. As time passed, Steven also learned that Janet had been in mental health facilities due to repeated incidences of overdose. Steven remained supportive of Janet, working with her to attend substance abuse meetings, as well as a therapist.

In his initial outreach to Parent Help, the caseworker discussed Steven’s options with him. A few months later, Steven called back to inform his caseworker that he was able to secure temporary custody of Emma. Steven also shared that he had since learned Janet had an older child who had been taken from her for the same reasons.

While Steven was addressing the safety concerns he had for their daughter, he did not want to keep Janet and Emma apart. Parent Help continued to speak with Steven about the ongoing situation, sharing referrals and going over the options he had over the many different elements which included child support, supervised visitation, legal recourse and therapeutic counseling.

Steven asked Parent Help to please speak with Janet. He understood that mediation was not appropriate in his situation due to Janet’s lack of capacity from the substance abuse; however, he hoped that information might be shared and that the level of hostility would be kept to a minimum.

The Parent Help case worker was able to speak with Janet and discussed some of the specifics of the financial and day care situation. Janet claimed she wanted to work through the issues with Steven, and was upfront about her substance abuse. Janet stated that she too had safety concerns for Emma noting that there was an unfenced pond in Steven’s backyard, and building materials were left unattended inside his house, which was in the process of being renovated.

The issues between Janet and Steven were eventually handled through conversations they were able to have with one another. At the same time, Emma’s safety was – and continues to be – the guiding force in this co-parenting arrangement. Steven was grateful for the opportunities he was given through the ongoing Parent Help support and case work.