Michiana mother becomes DCS success story
A Michiana mom, whose son was taken away by the Department of Child Services after he was born, became a DCS success story within a few months.
Eight months ago, recovering addict Peni Farkas wasn’t sure she’d get to be a mom.
“My son is absolutely everything to me, absolutely everything. He saved me. He saved me," Farkas said.
He saved her from herself.
“I started doing pain killers a few years back, and I just more and more progressed and progressed and progressed," Farkas said.
She was 23 when she got hooked.
"They weren’t doing what I wanted them to do, so I looked for something else, and I found heroin," Farkas said.
Three years later, she found out she was pregnant.
Heroin was still number one in her life, but she knew she had to make a change.
“It was scary. And when I found out I was pregnant, I was like okay, this is it. This has got to be it, and that’s when I found the Victory Clinic," Farkas said.
The Victory Clinic in South Bend sees about 12 to 15 pregnant clients enter each year.
“When women come in when they’re pregnant to our clinic, it’s very important that they come in and have a baby that is not addicted to heroin, so usually they’re our first priority," said Imani Ingram, a substance abuse counselor at Victory Clinic.
Farkas started going to the clinic in March 2016.
“I was going every morning, maintaining, keeping myself clean, and a few days before my son was born, I relapsed," Farkas said.
Her son was born on August 20, 2016.
“Fortunately he was perfect," Farkas said.
“A DCS agent had come to me in my room, and she was asking me a bunch of questions pertaining to me and my addiction--and then she asked me, 'Do you know that your son tested positive for heroin?'" Farkas said. “That’s when I was just like okay, it’s over. It’s done. I can’t lie about this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I quit. It’s over.”
DCS detained her baby at the hospital and connected her to the case manager, Lisa Humphrey, who walked her through the first steps of her new life.
“When I first met Peni, she was scared, she was nervous. She didn’t want to be in the situation that she was in, but knew that she needed to be in the situation that she was in," Humphrey said.
The parents of 775 children in St. Joseph County are in a similar situation. There were 639 at the same time last year.
In 2016, the parents of 1,509 kids lost their rights for good.
Farkas was determined that would not happen to her.
“I wanted to take whatever DCS was going to give me and my son, and I was going to utilize it, so I could finally be sober, but finally be a mother. A sober mother ," Farkas said.
“Peni is a very unique case. She has been 100-percent compliant. She has done everything that the department and I have asked her to do," Humphrey said.
She had to watch relatives raise her son for the first 8 months of his life.
“I didn’t get to do what most mothers did. I didn’t get to nap with him on my chest. I didn’t get any privacy with him. I didn’t get to just play with him one on one, just him and I, " Farkas said.
That became the fuel for her fight.
“For whatever reason they’re involved with DCS, they have to want to make the change, and then they have to show us that they’re able to keep their children safe," Humphrey said.
Humphrey said Farkas did that by continuing her treatment at the Victory Clinic, attending parenting courses at Family First and finding a home for her family.
But she didn’t do it alone.
“I didn’t understand really before, but it really does take a village to raise a child, and I’m so thankful that these people are my village," Farkas said.
Her case worker, supervisor, substance abuse counselor, and parenting counselor set goals together every few months at a child and family team meeting.
“But it all came from her. It came from her desire to want to be clean and to want to get her son back and to work this life and to live free," Ingram said.
DCS says Farkas is a shining example of their goal - to reunite healthy families.
"There’s this one particular moment when a parent realizes that their child is coming home, and you can feel it throughout the whole courtroom. Parents start to tear up. I have to kind of bite my tongue and look up and try to keep it in myself and be professional in that moment, but for me, that moment is what sends me to work every day," Humphrey said.
Humphrey says seeing Farkas' face when she found out her little boy could finally come home made everything worth it.
“It was relief. It was excitement. It was happy. It was every positive emotion you can think of, and you could almost see the weight being lifted off her shoulders," Humphrey said.
“It is a rollercoaster, a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m happy he’s home. I’m happy that I have my family. I’m happy that I did it. I did this. I did it, and so I’m just ready to move on from all of this, so ready," Farkas said.
She’s ready for her biggest challenge - motherhood.
“It is crazy. I want to throw him a party, like I want to throw him a party," Farkas said.
She’s excited for the crib to never be empty again.
“I want him to know that I will always fight for him. I did fight for him. And that no matter what I will always fight for him. He’s my son ," Farkas said.
Farkas says she hopes others take two things away from her story. The first - that DCS is there to help reunite your family as long as you work with them. The second- if you have an addiction - it is possible to recover.
If all goes according to plan and a judge officially grants her custody in the summer, Farkas will never have to be away from her son again.