Names have been changed.
Chad was referred to our service in January seeking support to reduce cannabis and maintain abstinence from methamphetamine (ice), which he has used for twenty years. Chad is 42.
Chad and Samantha have six children, three each to different partners.Samantha’s girls reside with their natural father and she sees them fortnightly when they spend weekends with her. Chad’s daughters are in foster care. When he left the relationship with the girls’ mother he moved interstate.
Samantha’s father died late last year he had been a long time heroin user. Chad’s father died the previous year. Chad and Samantha resided with Chad’s father until his death. Chad’s father was the lease holder for the rental property which was surrendered to the property management service when he died. Chad and Samantha, were then homeless.
During a drug-induced psychosis he ransacked someone’s home, assaulted someone else and threatened grievous bodily harm to a third person. He was arrested and charged on all three counts. Chad does not remember the incident but does not doubt it took place. He has not used ice since that incident.
Chad and Samantha had been together two months when they became pregnant. Now they were pregnant, homeless, grieving, and using large quantities of ice and cannabis. Last winter was spent in a small tent in the bush.
Medical officers at the ante natal clinic, where Chad and Samantha presented for ante natal care, were obliged to make a child protection report when their homelessness and drug use was disclosed. The couple requested support.
The child protection officer was able to secure a room for the couple in a boarding house which was overcrowded and from which drug dealing activities occurred (which became evident after they moved in). Their child – Sasha – was born and her parents allowed to take her home under a temporary care agreement to see how they managed. Chad had provided sufficient evidence to the officer to raise that worker’s confidence in his ability to sustain the recent changes in his behaviours and circumstances. The child protection officer was responsible for Chad’s referral to our service.
The couple have since secured long term housing (high density) in a suburb notorious for its violent drug culture. The priority lists for social housing are presently running at a ten year wait. Chad and Samantha consider themselves fortunate and are making their unit their home.
Two weeks ago I accompanied Chad to criminal court for sentencing. As I sat on the hard wooden pews of the local criminal court and listened to the magistrate rattle off the long list of past and more recent offences, my hopes for a non-custodial sentence drifted away. Chad’s body language followed my sagging hopes. (Do you think part of judge school carries a module on mumbled nose wiping so no one other than the judge understands what is being said).
Letters from services with whom Chad and Samantha had engaged, provided the judge with sufficient confidence to hand down a non-custodial sentence (relief). He exercised leniency on the grounds of the difficult circumstances of both partners having to come to terms with the deaths of their fathers, being homeless and now caring for their newborn daughter. The letters of support indicated that the couple have the potential to turn their lives around, sustain recent changes and to continue to parent Sasha in a manner that ensures her well being and protection.
The Intensive Community Order requires Chad complete community services, attend weekly drug and alcohol counselling, regularly engage with his parole officer, comply with his bond requirements and keep himself out of trouble for a period of two years.
Two months ago his daughters requested a visit from Chad. This was arranged by the foster care service who provided supervision for that visit. The girls have since asked for more regular visitation and the service has agreed to monthly supervised visits.
Chad is heavily tattooed and has an adroit way with vituperative verbiage (cusses like a sailor) which has ensured the neighbours and others in his street have respectful regard for him and his family. He is slowly altering the culture of the street. No drug using, dealing or drug talk in the street or within earshot of children, no walking into other people’s homes uninvited and no stealing. Last week when a resident joined in a street conversation smoking a crack pipe Chad advised him to leave – he did.
So far so good.
We have spoken about the possibility of his actions being taken as threatening but he says the boundaries needed to be drawn before anyone breached his privacy to compromise the safety of his family.
Samantha is a qualified chef and is currently seeking part time employment. Chad is exploring college studies in carpentry, building or painting and plastering. He is also an avid gardener and is interested in becoming part of the local Men’s Shed.
There are still child protection issues for Sasha and on-going involvement by those services will be a part of Sasha’s early life. As both parents adjust to a drug-free life and learn new behaviours continued support will be available to help them achieve their identified goals. Chad continues to meet with his doctor to monitor his mental health issues for which he is now medicated.
We will continue to work with Chad on relapse prevention to sustain his abstinence from ice use and work towards cannabis reduction to cessation. It was evident at time of presentation for treatment to our service that Chad was ready for change. He has sustained significant changes to his circumstances and behaviours and continues to exhibit courage and tenacity in his on-going struggles.
Every day I am grateful I am not paid to judge the people I work for. The court system takes responsibility for that side of my clients’ lives. My role is to support, encourage and build hope where none exists, or fan the flame of the spark that remains.