By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Standing alone in the crowded hallway outside Denver Juvenile Court, Tiffany McAdam folds her arms tightly across her chest to calm her shaking. She is waiting for the hearing in which Judge Dana Wakefield will rule on the fate of her four-year-old son, Martin -- the boy whom police took from her during a drug-induced nervous breakdown a year ago -- as well as that of her newborn son, whom she hasn't seen since his foster mother took him home from the hospital in July. Tiffany had taken two hits of methamphetamine four days before he was born, and social workers had deemed her an unfit mother. She anxiously covers the patches of her fair skin that are scabbed from scratching, remnants of a bacterial infection that's plagued her for a year. The sores look like those of a methamphetamine user, and people often assume that's what they are -- especially given her history.
Denver Department of Human Services caseworker Kathy McGirt's written report to Wakefield, submitted two weeks prior to this August 31 hearing, says that Tiffany and her husband, David McAdam, have been in compliance with their treatment plans for seven weeks, but they are not ready to be parents. It's not in Martin's best interest, she adds, to delay permanency by giving the parents more time. She recommends that David's brother, John, get permanent custody of the boy.
Tiffany, however, believes that would be a horrible mistake. She doesn't have a relationship with her brother-in-law -- let alone a good one -- and with guardianship, John would have every right to keep her son away from her and David. Instead, the McAdams are clinging to the hope that the judge will give them more time to prove that they can stay off drugs and out of jail. If they can't, John is an alternative to the nightmare of having their son adopted by strangers and their parental rights terminated.
"We can't screw up," David tells Tiffany, standing with his face a few inches from hers. "There's no room for error. I'm not going to screw up. We're going to get our son back. We're going to get our son back."
"Tell me you trust your brother," she says.
"What choice do we have?" he asks.
"Tell me you trust your brother."
"He's not going to hurt Martin."
Unconvinced, Tiffany finds McGirt so she can stress to her, once more, that uncle John is not a safe choice for her son. She wants her kids home, but if that can't happen, she'd much rather see them with her brother in Virginia. Tiffany tells the caseworker that her brother-in-law's 1998 felony conviction for meth distribution involved guns, something she and David have never possessed.
By the time the hearing begins, DDHS has changed its recommendation. McGirt tells the judge there is new information about the placement that requires investigation. Something about a sawed-off shotgun in the house, adds City Attorney Laurie Kaczanowska, who notes the progress the McAdams have made in recent weeks and says it would be in the boys' best interest to give the parents more time to work toward reunification. As both parents break down in tears, the judge asks Tiffany how she could "sit there and smoke with that baby right below your face." She stumbles through an apology until David, a former heroin addict, interrupts.
"I'm about to lose my son for [my past] mistakes," he chokes in a pleading tone. "I'm scared to death. I like who I am now. I'm tired of being who I was. I feel I've been compliant from the get-go. I just feel I deserve a chance. All I'm asking for is an opportunity, time to show I can stay out of jail."
Wakefield asks David how many times he's been to jail since he turned eighteen. "Too many."
"How many times for drugs?" he asks
"All of them," David replies.
"What did you do to protect that baby?" the judge demands.
"I was incarcerated, Your Honor," David says softly.
The judge reminds the parents that it has been a full year since their case began, and, according to the law, the court is now supposed to place their son in a permanent home. "I want you to listen to me good," Wakefield says. "The public has no clue what's happening to children in our society. The legislature and Congress became aware in the last decade. They've changed the law to make things move very fast. Some would argue they're pushing people too quickly -- that people with drug addiction, for instance, can't recover that fast. You two prove it beyond any doubt.
"Look at what's in front of me," he continues. "What's happened since we gave you treatment plans? Dad -- mistake. Mom -- tragic mistake. If I give you a chance and you fail, everyone has a right to say, 'Judge, what were you thinking? That's why the law is there.' But if you've gotten it together to stay, what a tragedy it would be if I took both of your children away forever. If I don't give you that chance, what a tragedy. If the child was in foster care, I'd say too late, too little."
Relieved and humiliated, Tiffany and David slip silently from the courthouse, with ten weeks to prove they are worthy of their children.
For the past five years, the Denver Department of Human Services has been revamping its process to fit a national model that strives to better serve families and provide better outcomes for children. The Family to Family reform initiative, created by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, emphasizes strengthening families and communities through carefully targeted services provided as early as possible to parents in need; the goal is to keep children in their homes or reunify them with their parents in a timely manner. When that is not possible, the model tries to keep children within their extended families or same neighborhood.
Starting with a foundation grant in 2000, DDHS implemented the Family to Family program. The department created two community collaborations of families, service providers, religious institutions, schools and community activists. Each of the two groups was funded with a $45,000 annual grant from the Casey Foundation. Today there are seven collaborations serving seven neighborhoods and receiving a total of $150,000 a year. In January, that allotment will grow to $250,000 annually. The services provided -- parenting classes, drug treatment, job training, counseling -- have always been available, but not always close by, not with flexible hours and not always in the family's primary language. "[The collaborations] don't just serve the kids and families that we send to them," says Human Services manager Roxane White. "They serve the entire community. A family can get any of these services without having a case, by going directly to the collaborative."
Family to Family has also changed the way the department approaches referrals. In 2002, DDHS began using a process called Team Decision Making, or TDM, which gives families a say in treatment and child placement. It also allows grandparents and aunts and uncles an opportunity to step up and provide a home for their kin. As a result, the department has substantially reduced the number of kids who are removed from their homes and put in group-home situations, from 80 percent in 2000 to 20 percent this year.
"With the old model, these children would have been removed from their home and neighborhood and placed with strangers in foster care," notes Allen Pollack, director of family and children's services for DDHS.
Administrators describe Family to Family as a process so positive that parents are thankful for the interference of social services in their lives. Caseworkers approach every new filing by getting to know the parents, finding out how they were raised and what their issues are. "We have very few people who maliciously think of ways to hurt their children, and tons of cases where parents have lost it, have had an impulse moment and they've made a terrible choice," says DDHS child-protection administrator Jude Liguori. "And does one terrible choice define that parent? We say no."
David and Tiffany McAdam wish they'd been able to experience the same level of support. In her experience, Tiffany says, "they don't even spend any time with you to find out who you are or what you're about."
Tiffany grew up the daughter of an Air Force pilot, so she didn't stay in one school or one country for too long. As an adolescent, she spent three years in Italy before starting her sophomore year of high school in Virginia. By junior year, it was South Carolina. The conservative South didn't agree with Tiffany; she missed skiing with her dad, as she'd done in Italy, and planned to go to college in Colorado. She was sixteen in 1982 when her dad took off on a routine training mission in a small plane. Tragically, both of the engines went out, and the plane crashed -- along with Tiffany's future.
After that, all she wanted to do was escape, but her mother convinced her to stay close to home. She studied political science at the College of Charleston until she got too restless, dropping out in her junior year to travel around Europe with money her father had left her. Five months later, back in the States, she moved to Winter Park. For seven years she lived the life of a ski bum, hitting the slopes in the winter and spending the summer months following the Grateful Dead. When Tiffany left for Fort Collins in 1994 to finish school at Colorado State University, she was engaged to a longtime friend from Winter Park and was finally ready to look toward her future. Then early one morning, she got the call that he'd hit a dangerous stretch of Highway 287 on his way back from a camping trip. He'd driven off the road and died.
Tiffany found her escape in heroin. "I'd done it. Never very often -- just here and there," she says. "But that's when I decided to have a problem."
She never expected that problem to last -- or to fall in love with a fellow heroin addict.
David grew up in and around Denver, the son of a firefighter. "It's a tough thing to live up to when your dad's considered a superhero, getting plaques and awards for rushing children out of fires," he says. When he was in the third grade, his parents had him tested for intelligence at the University of Denver. He had an intelligence quotient of 128, was reading at a college level and could do math at a sixth-grade level, but he was also having behavioral and emotional problems, so his parents sent him to a psychiatrist. "I was intelligent enough to be like, 'What the fuck? There must be something seriously wrong with me if no one else is seeing shrinks,'" he says.
At thirteen, David got caught shoplifting. At sixteen, he earned his first felony -- for pulling quarters out of a soda machine. "There was no violence, nothing that genuinely hurt anybody," he says. "It was all just teenage angst, just pushing limits. I've always been a limit-pusher."
David started using heroin for the same reason. He equates drugs with extreme sports: "What's the whole point of extreme sports? Pushing limits. Coming as close to dying as you possibly can without actually dying. Why do you climb a mountain? You slip, you fall, you're dead. You're doing dope a little too much, you're dead. And you're getting high. The metaphor is exact." More felonies for drugs, burglary and theft followed David into his adult years.
By 1999, at age 24, he thought he'd put his criminal past behind him. He was eight months clean, having enrolled himself in a methadone treatment program, when Tiffany walked into his life.
It was a spring night just after last call, and he was waiting outside the Snake Pit in Capitol Hill when a girl hopped into his truck and yelled, "Let's go!"
"Where are we going?" he asked. Realizing she was in the wrong car, Tiffany improvised and invited the stranger with her to an after-party. They stayed out all night and shared their first kiss as they watched the sun rise over Berthoud Pass.
"We were pretty much inseparable after that," David says.
Within six months, they were living together -- and partying hard. "I was off the charts. I was a rock star," David says of his heroin and cocaine usage. After a while, however, it got to be too much, and they moved out to Wheat Ridge to chill out. They were both in methadone treatment programs in 2000 when Tiffany got pregnant; they were married soon after.
Tiffany felt healthy and ready to be a mom. She had a merchandizing job with a major retailer, and she worked up until three days before Martin was born in 2001. When she went back to work two and a half months later, she put Martin in a daycare program at Family Star Montessori and Early Head Start. At night she stayed home and played with her son. She read him books at bedtime. They were inseparable.
David, on the other hand, was freaked out by fatherhood. He started partying and getting into trouble again, living in and out of jail and halfway houses. Even when he wasn't incarcerated, he stayed away because he didn't want to screw up his son. Tiffany called herself a single mom.
But by the time Martin was two, David had come around. "He started developing a personality, and it blew me away," he says. He began visiting his son at Family Star every day, and he was asked to join the school's Fatherhood Leadership Council. Craig Hart, the fatherhood project's leader, was willing to take a chance on David despite his felonies and halfway-house residence. "David was 100 percent committed to the program and was 100 percent committed to his baby. Still is," Hart says.
The McAdams' downward spiral began with a phone call in November 2003. Tiffany was standing outside the mall with Martin in the twenty-degree night, waiting for a ride that never showed. She knew David wasn't supposed to drive because he was living in a halfway house, but she didn't know who else to call. Not wanting to leave them out there, David went to pick them up. The cops pulled him over on Colfax Avenue for having expired plates. Instead of fessing up, he called his brother to ask if he could use his name. He figured John would get a ticket for driving without insurance and get off when he showed proof of insurance to the judge. His brother agreed but later told the cops the truth. David had a new felony -- criminal impersonation -- and was looking at another eighteen months in prison.
When he went away, Tiffany began to unravel. She'd left her merchandizing job to sell carpet, thinking she'd make more money. At first the move was profitable, but soon her commissions were non-existent. She quit the week of Thanksgiving and found a job at a hardware store, taking on the late hours for a reliable paycheck.
In February, a neighbor introduced Tiffany to meth, and she started using it every once in a while -- but never around Martin, she says. Come summer, she agreed to let a friend move in so she could split the rent. Unbeknownst to her, he was a heroin addict, and Tiffany was soon using heroin and meth and drinking heavily -- though still never around her son or in their home, she says. At the same time, a bacterial infection spread all over her body, making her even more irritable and anxious than the drugs already had. Then she abruptly stopped taking the prescription methadone she'd been on for four years. By August, it was clear to Tiffany that she needed help, and clear to David, again living in a halfway house, that she was losing her mind.
On August 15, 2004, Tiffany took Martin to Children's Hospital to be treated for a rash similar to hers. Hospital staff didn't see a rash on the boy, and Tiffany left the hospital before doctors could look him over. The incident was reported to social services, and a policeman came by the house the next day for a welfare check. Tiffany told the officer that her brother, a physics professor in Virginia, was letting her and Martin stay with him while she got well. Tiffany says he told her that was a good idea and even warned her not to get involved with social services. The subsequent police report indicated that everything at the house was fine.
Two days later, on August 18, 2004, Tiffany was driving with her son in the car. Rain was pouring in through the driver's side window, which was broken, and she could barely see. When she made out the lights of a police car, she started to follow them. The officer, who later reported that the car was being driven erratically, stopped the vehicle. According to DDHS, Tiffany told the officer that her home was not safe because it was raining, that she needed to speak to the British Embassy, and that her mother had come from North Carolina to poison her and her son. Later she would say that the CIA had been using biological warfare on her and putting vials in her plants. "It's raining; this means the ice age is coming," Martin told police.
All Tiffany remembers is telling the officer that she couldn't see because of the rain and that she was afraid to go home because there was a man in her house she couldn't trust. "[The officer] took me to the house and checked it out, and we decided I should go to the hospital because of my skin and because I was having some mental problems," she says. The officer searched the home for drugs and paraphernalia but found nothing. McDonald's fries were the only food in the fridge.
Jude Liguori sees such a moment of crisis as an opportunity for social services to intervene and help a family get back on track. "We all know this could be our life, that something could go wrong and we could be in this situation," says the DDHS administrator.
On August 23, 2004, David attended a Team Decision Making meeting with his parents and Tiffany's mother and brother. David's parents volunteered to take in Martin until Tiffany was healthy and off drugs. They believed that Tiffany had been a good mother and would be again. Tiffany, however, couldn't be at the meeting, because she had been committed to Porter Adventist Hospital's psychiatric unit.
At the hospital, Tiffany's doctor requested a court order to involuntarily medicate her with five anti-psychotic drugs, four mood stabilizers and a nervous-system depressant. Though doctors would determine that her delusions were meth-induced, when she checked out of Porter in September 2004, she was still on psychiatric medications. She didn't have electricity or heat when she got home, nor could she afford her prescriptions. "I spent a month in a mental institution, and I come out and I have less help than I've ever had in my life. I was a mess," Tiffany says. "I had no child. I didn't want to live for a minute there."
Instead, she "self-medicated" with meth. For the next month and a half, she tested positive for methamphetamines so often that social services suspended her visits with Martin. She says she finally quit using in November, when she learned that she was pregnant again. Tiffany decided she was ready to do whatever social services asked of her to get her son back -- and to be ready for her unborn child.
To do that, she and David would have to comply with their court-approved treatment plans by maintaining a steady income and stable housing, not engaging in criminal activity, and participating in drug treatment that included two random urine tests each week. David, still in a halfway house, wasn't free to attend regular treatment and couldn't provide housing, but he complied with what he could. Tiffany's treatment, through Denver Health, included a weekly one-hour session with a counselor to address her mental state, as well as a one-hour class of her choosing. Sometimes she attended a class for pregnant moms on methadone, which consisted of "women bitching and snitching on each other," and sometimes she went to a leisure-skills class, where she made bracelets. She didn't think either was helping her deal with the issues that led to her drug use or teaching her skills to avoid relapse. Nachshon Zohari, her counselor at Denver Health, says he didn't recommend Tiffany for group therapy at the time because he felt she wasn't emotionally ready for it.
At the same time, Tiffany was terrified of her DDHS caseworker, who was supposed to be helping her work toward reunification. "He always talked down to me," she says. "He treated me like crap." She says he told her things such as, "Well, you're a drug addict; you don't deserve to be a parent." David says the caseworker told him that there was no way he would get his son back if he stayed with his wife.
"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.
For nearly three weeks after David Jr. left the hospital, Tiffany did not see him. She hadn't seen Martin in more than a month, and Martin and David Jr. had never seen each other. At an August 8 hearing, Magistrate Kathleen Janski asked the parents' newly assigned caseworker how that happened. Kathy McGirt told her there hadn't been anyone to supervise a visit, but that she would oversee the first visit with the baby herself.
Two days later, David was nervous as he walked toward the DDHS building with his wife. He turned back toward the car once, then stayed to finish his cigarette while Tiffany went inside. He was worried about the visits. His older son was already confused. He didn't understand why he wasn't with his parents. Was he going to think they loved the new baby more, that they'd chosen a new baby over him?
They entered a lobby where McGirt was waiting with David Jr. She led them to a maze of mini-living rooms divided by short walls. Their room had teddy bears on the throw rug, Raggedy Andy peeking through the bars of a crib, and a rocking chair with one spoke missing. The parents sat on a loveseat with the baby while the caseworker filled them in on his health. He was getting physical and occupational therapy and working on his feeding. Sometimes he forgot to close his mouth. He wasn't sleeping very well.
David laid his son against his chest. The baby clenched one tiny fist around a piece of his father's shirt. "I sure hope he's getting lots of love," Tiffany said.
After McGirt informed Tiffany of her new visitation schedule, Tiffany wanted to know why she could only see Martin once a week.
"That is all we're able to do for transportation right now."
"So it's Martin's loss that you don't have proper transportation set up," she said, raising her voice slightly.
"It's not something I feel comfortable talking about while you're here with your baby," McGirt told her.
David flashed his wife a look. Reluctantly, she let the subject drop.
When the baby started to cry, she rocked him while David stroked his head. "You just don't feel good, do you?" she said. "He's got withdrawals; you can tell by his chin." She whispered to him how handsome he was, that everything would be okay.
A few days later, Tiffany was back in the waiting room at DDHS, sitting beside the foster mom who had been raising her baby. Tiffany attempted small talk while she tried to figure out how to tell the son she hadn't seen in a month that he had a baby brother. When the door opened, a cute kid with blond hair and a bright-orange T-shirt yelled, "Mommy!" and ran to her. She picked him up and started showing him the case of Hot Wheels and other toys she'd brought for him to play with. Then she crouched down beside him, next to the baby in his chair. "Meet your little brother; it's your little brother," she said a few times, trying to get him excited. Martin seemed uninterested. Looking around, he reached for his mom's ear and cupped his hands around it to whisper something.
"Oh, I love you," she said, hugging him.
Three weeks later, at the August 31 hearing, Judge Dana Wakefield tells the parents that reunification is a possibility, that they have ten weeks to prove themselves. McGirt recommends Tiffany for parenting classes and intensive outpatient drug treatment that entails ten hours of group therapy a week. The couple volunteers for marriage counseling, and David continues what he's been doing for weeks -- juggling a packed schedule of drug treatment, working full-time and going to school part-time.
By October, they had been sticking to the plan, and David enjoyed unsupervised visits with Martin. Tiffany was allowed supervised visits at home. She saw each child for two hours twice a week, once together at DDHS and separately at home. At his first time home in more than a year, Martin told his mom that he hated her for making him miss her so long. He threw a fit when it was time to leave, saying he didn't want to come back if he would have to leave again. But the following week's visits were better. At DDHS, Martin started calling his brother "my baby" and carefully looking after him, even asking another family if they could please quiet down so his baby could sleep. His parents invented a silly-walk contest to get him out of the building with a smile on his face.
On a recent Saturday-afternoon visit, mother and son made brownies, read books and played with toy cars on a miniature city, creating make-believe scenarios for each other. When it was time to go, Tiffany and David made funny faces so Martin would laugh instead of cry. Mom and Dad buckled their son into a car seat together. They were still waving as the car faded from view.
The parents were hopeful about their upcoming hearing. A new race-car bed was already waiting in Martin's room.
The lawyer for DDHS begins the November 7 hearing by telling Judge Wakefield, who is blind, how nice Tiffany looks and that David is also well-dressed. The parents take the compliments with an awkward chuckle, wondering if the implication is that they've previously shown up to court looking like a drug addict and a felon.
McGirt tells the judge the good news: Tiffany graduated from outpatient treatment the day before, and both parents are in full compliance with their treatment plans. The caseworker wants to transition the children home, starting with longer, unsupervised visits. However, before the children can go home permanently, the department wants the parents to move from their current home, since it was a neighbor who triggered Tiffany's relapse.
David asks the judge not to burden them with the stress and expense of a move. "Since I've been out [of jail], those people don't come anywhere near the house," he says. "They're scared of me. They know I hate it. They know I hate what they do, hate that they put her in that position. The whole point of making us move is relapse potential. No matter where we go, that option is there. Life is a relapse potential."
The judge decides not to require a move. "The issue is a drug-free environment. If the family can't provide that where they live, they know the consequences. Reunification does loom as a realistic goal, but if treatment plans fail, adoption will hover as a concurrent alternative." He sets a review hearing for three months hence.
David walks out of the courtroom wearing a bewildered expression. That was it? How could the judge extend his son's case another three months, six months past the year deadline? His attorney and caseworker explain that DDHS prefers to move children home gradually so as not to disrupt their lives too dramatically. They say that it's likely that one or both children could come home before the next hearing. When DDHS feels the parents are ready, it will ask for the judge's approval to move the kids home. For now, the parents will get Martin for a full day on Saturdays and David Jr. for half a day. If that goes well, they'll move on to overnight stays.
Tiffany and David stand outside the courthouse, exhaling long drags from their cigarettes. Even though they have to wait, it looks as if they are going to get their happy ending. The scary thing, David says, is that he feels like it happened by chance. His parents had made sure Martin didn't go to a foster home; the caseworker they didn't like left the department; the plan to place their son with his brother fell through at the last minute, forcing the court to take a serious look at reunification. What if his parents had been unable to care for Martin? What if their original caseworker hadn't left? What if his brother's record had been flawless? "We got lucky," David says. "But luck should have never come into it."
He concedes, however, that the situation forced Tiffany to clean up and forced him to do it faster than he might have otherwise. He's no longer scared of having his kids turn out like him. "My morals, my values are really good. I'm not a dumb person. I see a lot more than most people, and if I can help them grow to a lot of the positives I have while avoiding the negative things, I think that would be great. Because I've made so many mistakes, it's going to be a whole lot easier for me to see them start to make mistakes and be able to intervene."