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Family Affair

Tiffany McAdam looks to the future with hope.

In January, it looked like the McAdam family was finally on their way to a happy ending. Denver Juvenile Court was letting parents David and Tiffany bring home their oldest son, four-year-old Martin. Once he was settled, the Denver Department of Human Services would start transitioning the couple's six-month-old baby, David, home as well.

There had been a time when no one thought the McAdams would ever get their kids back ("Focus on the Family." December 1, 2005). Police had taken Martin away from his mother during a drug-induced nervous breakdown in August 2004, when the boy's father was incarcerated. In the months to come, Tiffany would relapse while pregnant with her second child, and David would return to jail. But by August 2005, the parents had straightened up enough for Judge Dana Wakefield to give them one more chance to prove they were worthy of their children.

In January, Martin came home and the family moved to a new house. Everything was going well, except for the worsening pain in David's back. The thirty-year-old had always had back pain, partly due to a tumor that had once rested against his spine, but it had gotten so bad that David could no longer sleep. His doctor increased his dose of hydrocodone, a narcotic pain reliever, to give him some relief, even though David was already on methadone as part of his drug treatment, and he was taking amitriptyline, a prescribed anti-depressant.

He took the new dosage on the night of February 11, and when Tiffany woke up the next morning, she found him unresponsive. An ambulance took David to Porter Hospital, but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The cause, according to the autopsy report, was "probable combined methadone, hydrocodone and amitriptyline toxicity."

Tiffany needed to grieve the loss of her husband, but she also had to show the court that she was just as capable as a single parent. On February 28, she stood before Judge Wakefield for her hearing and was commended for her progress and how she was handling the tragedy. All parties agreed that Tiffany's children belonged with her.

In May, ten-month-old David Jr. came home to his mother and brother after living in foster care since birth. Still, the case is ongoing, with the next hearing scheduled for September. Since the baby wasn't born in a hospital, Tiffany doesn't have a birth certificate, and until she can obtain one, legal custody will stay with DDHS so there won't be a gap in the child's Medicaid coverage, says department spokeswoman Sue Cobb.

Tiffany's also wearing a drug-testing patch that screens her 24 hours a day, and it's her understanding that any misstep now will cost her her kids. It's a frightening proposition for someone who knows how easy it is to relapse, who knows the odds are stacked against her. But her biggest concern of late isn't drugs, it's money. She's only making $6.75 an hour at her current job at Ross Dress for Less. Even though she's been getting help through DDHS and her in-laws, she's worried about how she'll pay for child care in the future. If she can't afford it, she can't work. Cobb says that even if Tiffany doesn't qualify for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, the department will work to help her find another means of assistance.

Tiffany doesn't expect she'll need the help for too long. When the day comes that her case with Denver Juvenile Court finally ends, she's leaving Colorado. "I'm just going through the motions until they take the chains off," says Tiffany, who wants to move to South Carolina, where her mother lives on a marina. The boys could grow up on a resort surrounded by ocean and sunshine. Not a bad life.

 
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