Elizabeth's Story

I’m from Seattle. I was living there with my husband and our two daughters. We were good parents and our daughters were healthy and happy. When my abuser re-entered my life briefly in Seattle, I did have a recurrence of use at that time. But before I went into the treatment, I overdosed and the Child Services case was opened in Seattle. My experience at that time was that they were actually really understanding. They actually set me up with an attorney to deal with my abuser and got him out of my life that way, and they actually, they even paid a utility bill. So they actually helped me that time.

We moved to Florida from Seattle. My husband had had a recurrence of his mental illness and was in the hospital and, you know, my in-laws and I had always had a strained relationship and we got into an argument. Spurred a Child Services Investigation that resulted in an investigator coming by when I wasn’t there, taking her and her husband’s testimony, and looking at my record of having given birth to the elder of my two daughters in South Florida while on methadone, and then filed to remove my children without ever seeing me with them, speaking with me, she didn’t even ask for my phone number or attempt to call me.

At the trial, the judge said that she was ruling against me, charging me with neglect and imminent risk of serious harm to my children and keeping me from them. Now permanently, because my rights have now been terminated. So, the custody arrangement that was determined at the hearing was that my in-laws would have physical custody of the children. The investigator had actually recommended against that because my father-in-law had a DUI. But the magistrate overruled that and allowed them to go there, on the condition that he never drove them. I had an opioid use disorder that was diagnosed as in remission, no criminal involvement whatsoever. But because there’s this stigma against opioids that doesn’t exist so strongly for alcohol, it didn’t play against him the way it played against me.

I definitely had no idea how the system truly operated before I was forced to go through it. And then I started doing more research and looking more into the system, and I realized that my experience in Seattle was not normal. And my experience in Florida was, and the system doesn’t normally help parents. I have not had custody of my daughters since 2018.

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