Mother fights addiction and gets her son back
Special to the Tahoe Daily Tribune
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – Teresa Lane was outraged when California Child Protective Services knocked on her door more than five years ago.
The child welfare agency took her 9-month-old son and placed him in foster care.
Lane didn’t understand why – the baby had a roof over his head, plenty of food, warm clothing for the cold Lake Tahoe winters and a family that loved him.
At the time, Lane couldn’t see that her methamphetamine addiction and stormy marriage were threatening her son’s welfare.
Through the intervention of CPS, Lane said, she worked her way back and now tries to be an example for other families in crisis.
“I did not realize that I was out of control and needed help,” she said. “Through the wake-up call and intervention of CPS I was forced – although kicking and screaming – to get help. I was forced to decide to be a part of Dependency Drug Court, and I was forced to face myself and truly become the parent my son so sincerely deserved.”
Lane, 32, has been sober for four years and now has sole custody of her 4-year-old son. She is a counselor at the Vitality Center, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in South Lake Tahoe. She is majoring in addiction studies at Lake Tahoe Community College. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in psychology.
Lane credits CPS with putting her life – and her son’s life – back on track.
“It’s exactly what I needed, exactly what had to happen to have my son,” she said.
Lane started using meth when she was about 22 years old. When she met her now ex-husband, the baby’s father, they began using together, she said. She gave up meth during her pregnancy, but resumed five months after her son was born.
Her ex-husband violated his probation, was arrested and went to jail, Lane said.
Then in November 2005, a sheriff’s officer, the probation officer and a social worker came to her door. They were there to take the baby to foster care.
“We were moving, so there were boxes everywhere; dogs and cats and hair and stuff everywhere, you could barely walk through the house,” Lane said.
The team explained what was going on, what would happen next and the steps she needed to take to get her son back, she said.
“I was really ugly about it I’m sure,” Lane said. “I was probably high – I think I was coming down. I was emotional; the guilt and shame from it.”
The social worker gave her a plan to follow, which included parenting classes at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, dealing with the domestic issues with her husband, finding a job and getting clean.
She left sobriety for last.
After one night in foster care, the baby went to live with his grandparents in Placerville, Calif. After three weeks, her son came home.
She stayed clean for three months but continued to relapse.
“I think I was manipulative, thinking, ‘it’s not as bad as other people,'” she said.
Lane started hanging out with her old group of friends.
“I didn’t think I had a problem. I thought my husband did,” she said.
Then a social worker checked in.
“She asked me, ‘are you wired?'” Lane said.
The court took the baby back to his grandparents.
“That was my bottom,” Lane said.
Shortly after her husband was released from jail, they had a big fight, Lane said. Lane took four Ambien and four Soma muscle relaxants and washed it down with red wine.
“It was out of desperation,” she said. “I just wanted to go to sleep for a long time.”
Lane ended up at Barton Hospital having her stomach pumped. In all, she had blacked out for 18 hours.
Deb Riedmon, the on-site program manager for Sierra Recovery Center, came to the side of Lane’s hospital bed.
“I said, ‘Do you have a problem? Do you want to go to the recovery center?’ Riedmon said. “We drove right to residential (treatment).”
Once she was in treatment, Lane said she realized how destructive her marriage was and began taking steps to regain her sobriety and her independence. She eventually went to a transitional living home, attended a domestic violence support group and worked the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“So basically, I did a whole lot for nine months,” Lane said.
She was able to visit with her son weekly, depending on rides from her son’s Court Appointed Special Advocate or a social worker. Soon, she was able to have her son during overnight visits. Then, for the whole weekend.
Lane regained custody the day she completed dependency drug court.
“It was so amazing to have my son back, so I could be the mother I wanted to be and I always knew I could be,” she said.
Although Lane is grateful that the state intervened, she knows not all families in the child welfare system agree.
“Not everyone who has a child removed is grateful, because they are never able to see their part in why this took place or welcome the help that is offered to them,” she said. “I feel sorry for those parents, but I really feel saddened for the children.
“Every child deserves the best parent possible, and sometimes that means we as parents need some help to become the best parents possible,” Lane added.