Jose's Choice

County tells man to leave his wifeor lose his kids

Yet Angela's case became more complicated in September, when she gave birth to another child, Julian, who also tested positive for methamphetamine. Combined with her refusal to complete drug treatment classes, Julian's positive test has led SSA officials to threaten to put Angela's children up for adoption. The county may follow through on that threat as early as next Wednesday, when it will hold a pre-adoptive hearing on their case.

Angela acknowledged that most people might see her refusal to take drug classes as unreasonable.

"People say, 'If it was me, I'd be doing everything they ask. You should walk through fire for your children.' But I feel that my rights have been violated." She's standing up for the rights of all parents by not cooperating, she says. "Even if you cooperate, it doesn't even guarantee you'll get your children back. More parents need to stand up against the system. That's why I'm doing this."

The county's policy on drug-addled mothers is clearly aimed at protecting children from harm. But in this case, it's clear the county's policy is creating rather than protecting victims. Since being taken from his parents, county officials admit, Joseph has developed severe behavioral problems, including temper tantrums and hitting other children at school. An August 2004 report says, "Joseph has been witnessed on several occasions by staff at Orangewood . . . to hit himself and call himself stupid or dumb. Also noted is the fact that the child has a low frustration tolerance and he becomes angry at his peers very easily and has been observed to yell at his peers at these times."

An August 2005 status review report examining the children's progress in the past year says that Joseph had told a psychiatrist, in March, "that he was stolen from his parents" and that he "feels he is betraying his family." In April, Joseph "got in trouble at school for not following directions and also for putting his hand around another child's neck." Later that month, "while Joseph was at preschool, a child snuck up behind Joseph and he pushed that child." On May 2, 2005, also at preschool, "Joseph became frustrated when a child in front of him was hesitant in going down the slide and Joseph hit the child."

The report shows that a county social worker then met with Adrienne, Joseph and Justyna and informed them that their parents "had done some things and they could not return to their parents" until the couple finished taking classes. "Adrienne asked what would happen if her parents did not complete their classes, and [the social worker] replied that they could be adopted by a family or stay in foster care until they are 18 years old. . . . Joseph kept saying, 'It's really sad' and Adrienne was crying."

"It's insane," Angela says. "They are punishing my kids because I'm not jumping through their hoops. They have told Jose they would give him custody, 'But the fact that you are with the mother prevents us.' He said that he'll do what it takes to get the kids back. But it's a scary thing to think we could have our parental rights terminated. They are just totally abusing their authority, and this is going to cause long-term trauma to our children."

"I don't think she's a drug addict, but I don't want to lose my children," Jose says. "I don't know what to do."

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