A local father, whom we’ll call John, came to the attention of Home Start when his Child Welfare Services Social Worker requested a Family Visit Coach (FVC). Issues of substance abuse and neglect had brought his infant daughter into the Child Protective Services system.
John grew up in rural San Diego where, despite its beauty, there were some unique disadvantages. Transportation was difficult since buses only ran twice a week and employment opportunities were few and far between.
In addition, both of his parents suffered from drug addiction, exposing John to substances as a middle-schooler. It was around this age that he met the future mother of his daughter, who also began to struggle with drugs. With a lack of support from parents and the physical distance from neighbors, John and his daughter became socially isolated. His partner suffered from severe mental health issues, compounding the situation, since there were few services available.
Family Is The Goal
Family reunification is always our goal with Family Visit Coaching. This was challenging for John to accept as he was hesitant to trust people, including the relative who was selected to temporarily care for his child. His perception was that he was a victim of his social worker and a system that wanted to keep his daughter away from him. His Family Visit Coach understood that it was his denial and his fear of this unknown system that lead him to a relapse in their early weeks together.
Although the relationship grew slowly in the beginning, he eventually sensed, and later knew, that the Family Visit Coach believed in him and his capacity for positive change. The FVC was able to reframe how he thought about their relationship, about the services he was required to do, and about his case in general. This instilled hope and empowered John to take a risk in entering a residential substance abuse program in an area of San Diego that was previously foreign to him. He started attending NA meetings where he soon realized how many others shared similar struggles.
While working the 12-steps John was able to gain insight into himself and found the additional support of a sponsor. He also attended NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) meetings to understand the challenges his daughter’s mother was facing.
Road To Recovery
As his recovery became real and tangible to him, he began communicating the small changes he was making to his social worker, which in time, changed the course of their relationship. John and his coach celebrated each new achievement, no matter how small, until he became clear about the future he wanted for himself and his child.
During this process, John continued to have supervised visits with his daughter twice a week. It became easier to identify small acts of protection he was naturally engaging in like following his daughter closely behind and securing her safety belt when being transported from the visits to the caregiver.
Milestones For Two
John became eager to learn about child development and the milestones his daughter was reaching. He looked forward to becoming part of her successes as he learned about her needs. He delighted in their attachment and in each new phase she was experiencing. He understood the value of structure and routine, how to set healthy limits, how to recognize and respond to his daughter’s verbal and non-verbal cues, what the parenting role entailed, putting his child’s needs before his own, and understanding with empathy of the trauma his daughter had been through.
Over the course of Family Visit Coaching, he was voted a peer leader and took pride in advancing up through 3 levels in his recovery program. He proudly shared each NA token with his Family Visit Coach. He graduated from his program and moved in to a Sober Living facility to continue on the path toward reuniting with his daughter for the long term.
The Feeling of Success
He really enjoys looking back through all of the photos taken during the course of his progress, his increased confidence in being a father, his ability to advocate and use resources, and the value of his new support network. John’s focus was now on his relationship with his daughter and the joys of raising a growing toddler!
This is one of many of the ways our programs work toward strengthening families for the safety, protection, and future of San Diego’s children.