When a parent in crisis faces barriers in caring for her children, our legal and child welfare system should provide help and support to keep the family together if possible. But too often, the system doesn’t work. That is why Legal Voice is working to win justice for Melissa.
Melissa’s partner died when she was pregnant. After giving birth, she suffered from grief and depression and had a relapse of drug use. She agreed to a court order that gave non-parental custody of her two-year old child to relatives, and then immediately entered a drug treatment program and successfully turned her life around.
But her recovery wasn’t enough. Melissa understood the custody agreement would be temporary, but despite her efforts, she has been unable to regain custody of her child.
Melissa’s challenges arise from a disparity in our legal system. If the State had removed Melissa’s child from her care, the State would be required to provide her with needed services with the goal of reunifying her family, if possible. But since Melissa was faced with a private court action, the State is not obliged to provide those services and Melissa must defend the case on her own.
Legal Voice submitted an amicus brief with our allies at the Northwest Justice Project arguing that parents like Melissa must be able to get the help they need without the fear of never regaining custody of their children.