By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"I was afraid for my life," Tiffany says. "I was afraid for Martin's life. No one could give me an answer about anything. About would I be able to keep this baby if I'm clean: 'We can't tell you that.' So, no matter what, I thought I was going to lose the baby. No one ever answered my phone calls. No one can give you a guarantee on if you do things right you're actually going to get your kids back, and it's so scary."
Eventually, Tiffany says, the caseworker stopped returning her phone calls, and then didn't show up for two scheduled meetings. Tiffany called his supervisor at DDHS, Monica Leone, and asked to meet with her about the caseworker. When she and David went to see Leone, the supervisor simply told them that their caseworker no longer worked for the department. Leone gave no explanation, no apology.
Liguori refuses to discuss the caseworker or the reason for his departure. "I can say that we have 69 caseworkers who believe in families," she says. "People who are in child welfare believe that people make mistakes and children get hurt, and they are in this work because they believe that families possess the ability to change. I train to it. We staff cases to that, and that is the absolute philosophy."
After the meeting, Tiffany went home alone, with no caseworker and no answers. She was due in July, and she still didn't know what would happen to her baby. She imagined someone from DDHS coming into her hospital room and ripping her baby from her arms.
Things got worse in April, when David's halfway house sent him back to jail. He had volunteered to work an extra shift at his job but failed to clear it with the house's administrators. As a consequence for being late, he couldn't leave for three days and was fired for missing work. After two months of looking for employment, he wound up taking a "sorry little job" at a pizza place where everybody around him smoked pot. The day he joined in, he knew he had to quit. Out of work again, he racked up a $2,000 debt with the halfway house. Unable to pay, he was sent back to jail. Had that not happened, he might have been able to keep Tiffany from jeopardizing all they had worked toward.
Just before the Fourth of July weekend this year, a neighbor showed up at Tiffany's door and asked if she wanted to smoke some meth. The woman had offered many times before, but she had always said no. This time she thought about it. David was coming home in days. She wanted the house to be spotless, but she was so tired. She thought maybe the drugs would help her stay up to clean. She thought this might be her last chance to get away with it. She thought the baby was already fully developed so a little bit wouldn't hurt. She took two hits, which she instantly regretted. "As soon as she left, I was like, 'Why the hell did I do that?'" Tiffany says. "I think I really have a problem with peer pressure sometimes. It's like she didn't think it was wrong, and I didn't have the guts to say, 'This is dumb, this is wrong.'"
Instead, she says, she drank as much water as she could to flush it out of her system and then went to sleep.
On the morning of July 4, Tiffany's water broke. She called a friend to take her to the hospital. The friend's husband picked her up and returned home to get his wife. By then, however, it was too late to go to the hospital, and Tiffany ended up giving birth to David Jr. in the couples' bathtub. When she returned home, a neighbor who had seen her covered in blood and holding a baby called the police. Tiffany had called her doctor, wrapped the baby in a warm blanket and was cleaning herself up when the police arrived.
At the hospital, the baby tested positive for methamphetamines. Social services said she couldn't keep him, but neither David's parents nor any other family member wanted to take the newborn, considering the circumstances. Tiffany didn't press the issue with her family. She thought a temporary foster home would be okay, since the baby wouldn't be aware of it. Before he could go home with anyone, however, David Jr. had to spend three weeks in the hospital for his withdrawal from the prescription methadone Tiffany was taking. His detox was so difficult that he had to be fed through a tube.
David got out of jail three days after his son was born. He found a job right away, and visited the baby as often as he could. Tiffany sat with David Jr. for nearly eight hours every day until he went to the foster home. But while Family to Family encourages foster families to develop relationships with biological families and become "team members" in reunification efforts, David Jr.'s foster mother asked that Tiffany not be there when she came for the baby. Later, she asked that Tiffany not sit in on the baby's therapy sessions.