Addiction Vs. Being A Parent

Imagine the state taking your child away from you because there is a genuine fear you may harm the little one. Perhaps you already have.

In all likelihood, you can’t even comprehend such a situation. But then, you’re probably not addicted to opioid drugs.

Last week, the West Virginia Supreme Court released opinions in 49 cases. Seven of them involved parents trying to convince justices to order the state Department of Health and Human Resources to return children to them. In each case, boys and girls had been taken from homes because mothers and sometimes fathers posed a danger because of drug addiction.

It’s happening all over the state. Cases the high court dealt with recently were from Ohio, Wood, Kanawha, Putnam, Wayne, Harrison and Hardy counties.

In Ohio County, the case involved D.B., the mother of A.B. and S.B. While the court usually identifies parties in appeals by name, it uses only initials in child custody situations.

By the time an appeal reaches the Supreme Court, it already has been dealt with by the DHHR, which has been upheld by a circuit court. The Supreme Court is a parent’s last, desperate stop.

In every one of the seven cases I examined, justices upheld lower court rulings. That’s how clear the evidence against parents was.

In July 2015, the DHHR filed an abuse and neglect petition alleging both neglect and active abuse of A.B., who is D.B.’s child. A.B. had been exposed to illegal substances — and tested positive for them. Her mother had a history of drug abuse.

That October, the authorities decided to give D.B. a second chance. She was granted a period of time to improve her behavior. In two hearings later that year, the DHHR reported no progress. By April 2016, the state had taken custody of little A.B.

But the story doesn’t end there. Incredibly, D.B. had another child, S.B. A year ago, both mother and baby tested positive for cocaine at the hospital. D.B. admitted to using cocaine daily, prior to the infant’s birth.

D.B. also admitted she had been suspended from a drug addiction treatment program because of her use of alcohol.

Finally, last May, the local circuit court terminated D.B.’s parental rights.

A.B. was in foster care because her father apparently didn’t care enough to fight for her. He voluntarily relinquished his parental rights.

S.B. was luckier. Her father, another man, has her. He was judged to be “a non-abusing parent.”

D.B.’s situation is not unusual, to judge by Supreme Court records on the other six cases. Parent — often a single mother, to judge by court documents — gets hooked, has baby, is given a chance to get straight and can’t or won’t manage to do so.

In my experience, judges are eager to keep children with their birth parents, if there is any reasonable chance things may work out. All a misbehaving mom or dad has to do is make a genuine attempt to reform.

Here, though, were seven cases where opioids had such a hold on parents that the addiction won out over being a mother or father. Any more questions about why we simply have to whip the substance abuse crisis?

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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