Story of Justice: A Family Broken by Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse gets a Second Chance
This is the story of the Ortiz* family. A father and three children at first broken by domestic violence and substance abuse, but then put back together. John*, the father, was not stable as he had a severe substance abuse issue and an ongoing co-dependent relationship with the mother. The mother, dealing with her own issues, could not provide a safe environment for the children. Needless to say, the three children led troubled lives and were in desperate need of help. Unfortunately, one of the siblings was on the autism spectrum, while the youngest one was born testing positive for heroin and morphine.
In January of 2020, the three children were court-ordered a Legal Aid Service of Broward County Attorney from the Child Advocacy Program. Initially, the three children were separated and bounced around between placements until eventually they were placed back together in foster care. It was clear through communication with the children that they missed John, however, visits with their father were limited partly due to COVID-19.
Faced with this unfortunate situation, John had been proactively looking to improve himself. After some time and effort, John was clean and sober and participating in counseling. He was also engaged with the proper services to help him better parent his children, especially his son with Autism. Given the notable improvement in John, by October a hearing was held to begin a transition to reunification. While the other parties proposed a separate transition for each child, the Legal Aid Attorney and Legal Specialist objected passionately. This was not what the children wanted – they wanted to stay together as a sibling group.
Why it Matters
Legal Aid took testimony by the children’s therapist as to the emotional cost another separation would cause the children who had already been through so much. After carefully studying the situation, the court agreed and ultimately all the children were reunified together with their father in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
As a result of Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s Child Advocacy Program, this family was able to pursue another chance at happiness together. This is a prime example of what Legal Aid Service of Broward County does and why we do it!
*Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients
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