Regarding the family court process

I’ve been asked some online questions about this…

Family Court in Johannesburg is at 1655 Albertina Sisulu Street (I think), Child Welfare is somewhere in Fox Street, SANCA is somewhere in Marshall Street, and Social Development’s address, which is in my GPS but I can’t remember exactly, is ninety-something Commissioner Street (I think).  But it doesn’t matter exactly where they are – they’re all in roughly the same part of the Johannesburg CBD and you can find the addresses online.

But if you had a child removed from you because of addiction (or any of the other reasons that they remove children) you should already know where all those places are because you should be in the system…

My son was originally removed by Child Welfare, and the foster care was initially not formal. Then when we could not stay clean, it became formal, through the Child Welfare social worker going to the family court. At first it was temporary foster care, and then it was eventually “finalized” into more permanent foster care. It works on a two year cycle, and around the time of finalization, the case was handed over to Social Development.

Eventually we did comply with the recommendation of the court, and eventually everybody agreed that it was in my son’s best interest to be placed back with me.

So telling you exactly where the court is, is not going to help. You need to be in the system, with an assigned social worker and court dates.

Someone on Facebook asked more personal questions, referring to the foster mother by name. I don’t know how I came into contact with that person… Maybe they know her name because they know her personally, or maybe it was through my old blog. One of the reasons that I discontinued the old blog was that I wrote too much information there, including referring to people by name, including private details about the foster parents’ children, and so on. I will not be writing such details here, or on Facebook.

Things weren’t always going so well between myself and the foster parents, and my son’s mother was not always around. She is no longer with me, although I see her often. (She and her daughter visited yesterday, and we took both siblings for a photo with Santa.) I’m not going to fuck it all up now. I’m not even going to answer those personal questions when they are asked in private messages. Sorry.

But what I can say is that both foster parents, both biological parents, the child, and the Social Development social worker, attended court. Everybody was in agreement six months ago that myself and Megan were doing well, and everybody including Megan agreed that our son should be placed with me. (Megan doesn’t work. So she has no income, and had not made it clear where or with whom she is staying.) So the last six months involved more frequent visitation for me, and the recommendation that he should be placed back with me was a formality.

Actually our court date was last Thursday, but the magistrate who “took evidence” on the case six months ago, and who had to be the one to release my son from foster care, was off sick that day, so the case was postponed until the 15th December. The magistrate who handled the postponement was also one that I’d also seen before… She was no longer working in that section of the court but was the same one who handled the finalization into foster care a few years ago. That time, she spoke to me separately and earnestly, giving me advice regarding what I needed to do. She postponed the case this time, and didn’t seem to recognize me, but it was a great feeling to sit in front of her again. It felt great because she didn’t recognize me… because I was not that same person, than skinny, drug-addicted fool that I was the last time she saw me.

I make it sound so easy, don’t I? Well, it wasn’t always easy. The case needn’t have dragged on for so long. In fact, if I’d got my act together years ago, it would never have been handed over to Social Development in the first place. I also had some bad advice along the way… My therapist in the SANCA outpatient program that was recommended by the court encouraged my writing details on the old blog – details that made a lot of people unhappy. She also advised me to get a lawyer (as she used to work for Child Welfare before) but I did not, and things worked out perfectly without one. (Maybe it would be different if the foster parents were strangers, but they were not.)

Aside: Megan went for a drug test to show that she is clean, although she was not asked to do so. I posted my most recent test results here, and have posted hers here before. She requested that I do so again, but I have forgotten to do so. I will post it when I remember…

Yes! My son is back with me, at last.

I’m so happy – I’m elated. This is the second-happiest day of my life. Only when my son was born, was I happier.

Our family court date was today, and my son has been placed back into my care. The magistrate’s exact words were “I see no reason for foster care to continue”. For once, I am at a loss for words (though I will update this post with more words when I find them), and can not fully express just how good a day this is. I’m overwhelmed.

But I will say this: To all the other drug-addicted parents whose children have been taken away because of your addiction… You can change, and you can get your children back. It is possible. I know this because I have done it.

This has taken a long time, longer than I imagined it might be when we started this journey. He was taken into the care of my brother and his wife, at the age of 18 months, although at the beginning it was a private arrangement rather than formalized foster care. That came later when I was unable, at that time, to stay clean and sober. I did get my act together eventually, but it has been a tough ride, and at one stage, just as I could not imagine my life without drugs, I could not imagine having my child reunited with me. But I never gave up, and I did get my life back in order. Honestly these last two years and three months have been mostly easy, with a few ups and downs, but overall easy. It was the years before that, that were not easy at all. I’d like to thank Josh’s foster parents who did a great job of raising him while I could not. You will always remain a large part of his life, as will his mother. I hope that we can continue all to be a part of this journey together, but I am also relieved that not only is he back in my care, but also that you believe in me. As stated, this has taken longer than I wanted… he will be eight years old in April. But I’m glad that he is back with me.

I sometimes think about my friends in Cape Town from years ago, friends who had also had their children removed. Those friends never did get their children back, and I remember one of them who didn’t even seem to care. I pity them, and wish that they could get their priorities and choices in order. No parent should put their life of drugs and all that drugs entail ahead of their children. I wish that those people could understand what it is that I feel today, and at the very least, try to make this journey too.

But otherwise, I really don’t know what to say. So here’s a photo of my beautiful son, taken last Thursday when I tested the camera on my new phone…