When Eli Parsons and his partner, who was 8 months pregnant, came to HPP in 2007, they were eager to move into transitional housing and get back on their feet. Things didn’t quite go as planned. Shortly after giving birth, Eli’s partner tested positive for methamphetamines. Their new baby girl was drug free, but Child Protective Services took her into custody anyway.
HPP and its Dependency Drug Court (DDC) team soon stepped in to help the family achieve stability and remain intact. “Without the advocacy of DDC and Judge Lyons (then commissioner of the DDC), we would not have been able to keep our daughter,” Eli says, still grateful that the newborn girl was immediately placed with his partner’s family instead of entering foster care. Today, his daughter is healthy and vivacious, and the family remains together.
Eli is a true success story from the Dependency Drug Court. He took what he learned from the counseling sessions (both family and individual), his outpatient rehabilitation program, and his time in the family court, and moved forward. “Because I remember what it feels like to not grow up with a father, I promised myself my daughter would never feel that. As soon as I found out my partner was pregnant, I got clean and dedicated myself to my daughter and to my recovery. I did whatever they asked of me (in court) and more, because I wanted my family together.”
Once his case was dismissed from the DDC and his family was stable, Eli concentrated on finding a way to help others in similar situations. “I will tell my story as long as it helps someone else,” he says. “I am proof that this system works.” While looking for job opportunities and hoping to council others, Eli called Michele Hill, Manager of the DDC team. The timing was fortuitous since HPP was looking to create a new position for a Peer Mentor. Michele says, “It was exciting to welcome Eli to the team this fall. Eli and his family were the first family to graduate from DDC when we began it four years ago so it’s a pleasure to welcome him back.”
DDC serves as an intermediary to bring the attorneys and service providers together. A centralized planning agent for the clients, DDC assists them with the scheduling and maintenance of their therapies, court appearances and other aspects of recovery. The program is a true catalyst for change because it offers families a large network, a regimented routine of recovery, and a safe place to explore positive possibilities.
“There are high standards to stay in our program. It’s not enough to simply make your court dates – we want to see behavioral changes, we want to see you move forward. We are here to make the process of recovery and going through the court system more manageable,” says Michelle.
The program is a balance between support and structure. Clients are involved in not only their action plan but in their personal recovery as well. These cost effective collaborative courts are located across the country but San Francisco’s DDC is unique because of the diversity and strength of its community partners.
Michele is looking forward to more success in the year to come, saying, “We have a new judge presiding over DDC, Judge Patrick J. Mahoney, so it’s a year of positive change for our program. We see good things coming in 2012.”