A drug-using father and a fatherhood programme: a success story

21 November 2005

This particular father (‘James’) who I was working with was a drug user referred to me from the St Ann’s Health Centre. He and his partner were both drug users and they had an eight month old daughter. Their support worker and the health visitor thought it would be a good idea for James to get involved in the service I was offering at the Renewal Trust. This supports fathers and their children through group activities, but most of my work is one-to-one support for fathers – many of them young, black fathers – in Nottingham.

I visited James and introduced myself and the programme, and he came along to my fathers’ group meetings with his child, and met new fathers. At the group you could tell James was still using by his body language and the fact he never really said much – and after attending 3 sessions he stopped coming to group.

Although James stopped coming, I myself did not stop. I made a point of ringing him 2-3 times per week just to see how he was and how he was coping. In discussion with him over those weeks he told me things were ‘getting really bad’. The upshot was that his child was removed into temporary care.

This seemed to give James a shock, and he realised he needed to get clean – that he and his partner needed to go into rehab – if they were to get their daughter back.

James used all the support agencies and organisations to support him kick the habit. In our relationship the roles reversed as he himself started to ring me. He did this twice to three times a week, or we would meet up at the St Ann’s Family Centre where he would go for contact visits with his child. We talked a lot.

After a few months of this James got temporary residence of his child – and later this lead to full residence and responsibility..

Right after he got temporary residence of his child, James took her on a trip I had organised. On that trip he thanked me for being there for him, for being some one he could always talk to and who always had time for him, no matter ‘what state’ he was in. James said that this was ‘the day of a new beginning’ for himself and his daughter. He really valued the activities provided in the group, which gave him opportunities – like this day out – to spend time with his daughter in a positive and fun way. This was not something he had ever done before. Since then, James has told the same story to his support worker. James still has his daughter living with him, and they are doing well. Sadly, his daughter’s mother is still on drugs and now on alcohol also. They are separated and have no contact with each other.

Eric Atkinson
27/31 Carlton Road

07769 711220