Salvos Legal Humanitarian recently opened an office in Melbourne, at Sunshine, just in time to represent Dave in the Children’s Court in Victoria and assist him in his efforts to rebuild family and a home for with his 7-year old son, Gabe.
When Dave first contacted Salvos Legal Humanitarian he was in long term addiction rehabilitation in Queensland. He was confused, frightened and scared about what was happening with Gabe because he was told there were court proceedings in Victoria concerning care arrangements for his son. He knew he should stay in the rehabilitation program, but had little idea what the proceedings were, and was fearful of what might happen in a court room at the other end of the continent.
How did things get to this point?
Dave and Gabe’s mother, Michelle, lived in Queensland. They had both struggled with addictions and faced other challenges, including Michelle’s mental health issues and the family violence each of them perpetrated against the other. Dave made an important decision. He placed himself in a long term addiction rehabilitation program, but whilst there Michelle’s mental health deteriorated and she travelled to Victoria hoping for ‘a fresh start’, taking Gabe with her.
Dave contacted Salvos Legal Humanitarian in Queensland after he was told there ‘was to be a court case about Gabe’. With the presence of Salvos Legal in Queensland and in Victoria we were able to provide him with authoritative legal advice and quality legal representation in the Children’s Court of Victoria, all without him having to discharge himself from the rehabilitation program.
Deterioration in Michelle’s mental health and an assault of her by her new boyfriend in the presence of Gabe had led to her admission to hospital and to Victoria’s child protection agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) commencing proceedings in the Children’s Court to place Gabe into protective care. Gabe was placed in the care of Dave’s parents in Queensland, but this could only be a short term arrangement.
Salvos Legal Humanitarian Melbourne was able to appear on Dave’s behalf in Mention hearings and Directions Hearings in the Broadmeadows Children’s Court. We were also able to represent Dave at a Family Conciliation Conference and arrange his ‘attendance’ via teleconference. Evidence was presented and submissions made on Dave’s behalf at the various hearings.
Whilst we navigated him through the legal proceedings, Dave continued making big changes to his personal life. Rehabilitation was hard work, involving completion of over six months in a rehabilitation program, followed by living in supported transitional post rehabilitation accommodation. Dave stuck with the challenge as he was determined to get clean and stay that way for Gabe’s sake.
Dave also attended family violence counselling, which allowed him to have more insight into his behaviour and to learn how to manage it better.
Without Salvos Legal Humanitarian to provide advice, explanation and representation in the legal proceedings the pressure on Dave to leave rehabilitation or to trigger a relapse would have been immense – perhaps irresistible.
By the date of the final hearing in October 2017, Dave had, recently celebrated his one year anniversary of recovery from substance abuse; he was attending ongoing support programs including Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous 3 to 4 times per week; he had support of a 24 hour sponsor; he had rented a modest two bedroom unit near Gabe’s school in Queensland; he was seeing Gabe regularly and was working cooperatively with the Department as they monitored his progress; all of which was aimed at reuniting father and son as a family.
At the final hearing, and with the support of DHHS, we successfully submitted the Court make orders implementing a Family Reunification Plan, under which there was a monitored, staged return of Gabe to Dave’s full time care. Sadly, the Court also heard that Michelle was not faring as well in her struggle with addictions.
Gabe went to bed on Christmas eve in his own room at his dad’s unit. Gabe’s anticipation and excitement at the prospect of Santa’s visit meant he woke up at 11.30pm and was upset that Santa had missed him. Dave reassured him that it was not Christmas Day yet. He woke up very early, relieved and excited to see Santa had been! Christmas together was a very enjoyable day.
Gabe will soon be living with Dave full time and on a positive trajectory towards a great future together as father and son.