Supporting Families: a Wraparound Story of Big Second Chances

Sarah Davenport
December, 18, 2018 -

David really wanted to be a good father, and provide for his family in all the ways his own father had not. Unfortunately, having experienced trauma growing up, David had mental health issues he didn’t know how to deal with and he turned to alcohol as a means to cope. When his two children, Molly and Manny, were very young, David’s struggles with alcoholism affected his ability to provide them a stable home and impacted his relationship with their mother, Ana, in very unhealthy ways. On all fronts, David and his family were in crisis.

David’s family was referred to FCNI’s Familia de Novo (Wraparound) program in an effort to help them rebuild. Once in care, the family’s needs were assessed and they set goals, such as Ana and David learning to parent better and David wanting to be sober. It was during these initial team meetings that David had to face the hard truth that he couldn’t achieve sobriety alone. At the encouragement of his team, he checked himself into a Residential Rehabilitation Center to get sober and heal.

While in rehab, David’s two children lived with their mother, Ana, full-time, a new living situation for all of them. Even though the family still received support services from Wraparound, they continued to struggle. Molly and Manny were dealing with a lot of complicated emotions for such young kids—they missed their father, were fearful about their futures and didn’t wholly trust their mother. Unable to express all of these emotions in healthy ways, the two presented a lot of challenging behaviors, including acting out at school and at home. While Ana often shared how overwhelmed she was with her children’s needs, she refused help from her workers or any support services for her kids due to her own mental health issues. And Ana’s lack of participation created an obstacle which put Molly and Manny’s wellbeing at risk. In order to provide the kids stability and meet their escalating mental health needs while Ana and David both got back on track, the kids were placed temporarily with a Resource Family with a plan to work towards reunification.

All throughout rehab, David remained a devoted father to his children—calling, writing and staying on top of their lives as best he could. After completing his in-care program, David continued his commitment to his sobriety by participating in outpatient services. He also expressed how badly he wanted and needed to be reunified with his children, a desire his Familia de Novo team recognized and strongly supported. The family and their team developed a plan for reunification which included connecting David with affordable housing; assisting him in the purchase of reliable transportation; and meeting the family’s basic needs so that David could focus on supporting his children and maintaining his sobriety.

Once safe housing and transportation were secured thanks to community resources, David’s children were placed back into his care. Wraparound services were crucial following the family’s reunification, with in-home support staff working with Molly and Manny for several hours a day—both at school and home—several days a week, and the family putting a safety plan into action from day one to keep everyone safe. David also started working with an FCNI Family Partner to help him learn and apply parenting skills specified to meet his kids’ needs. In the beginning, the team was handling crisis calls on a daily basis. Molly’s behaviors would escalate until she was overwrought and David, unsure of himself, would call a worker to help him calm her down every time. While in-home support workers and his Family Partner supported David in his growing parental confidence, they also helped Molly learn real coping skills that she could use to tell her dad honestly and calmly what she needed, showing her how to take space when nothing else was working. At school, Molly was placed in a specialized classroom which helped her process her emotions in safer ways, enabling her to maintain more time in the classroom, working to completely renew her life at school.

David and his children have been in Familia de Novo for over six months now, and have made remarkable progress. No longer do workers receive daily crisis calls; in fact, staff no longer receive any crisis calls—a reduction in support that reflects the family’s ability to help each other with issues on their own. Sober for over a year now, David has started college with the goal of becoming a Social Worker, wanting to give back to a system which changed his and his children’s lives for the better. While the family still have challenges, they find themselves more committed to one another, focused on celebrating one another’s small and big accomplishments which only brings them closer together. They’ve already walked a tough road together, which has bonded them in ways that helps make success for them more possible. Regardless of our journey in life, it’s the people we share our journey with who make all the difference in where we end up, especially when we need a helping hand and a big second (or third or fourth…) chance.