Nov 14, 2012 7:08 PM by Jenise Fernandez

PART 3: A New Family Court Program is Helping Parents Sober Up

After struggling their entire adult lives with drug addiction, the Romero family is back on track. The parents have full custody of their three children and have been sober for seven months. And they credit their success to a new court program in Lafayette Parish. Fifteenth judical district court judge, Thomas Duplantier, kept seeing families, like the Romeros, torn apart because of drugs and alcohol. Wanting to help parents sober up and keep families together, the Lafayette Family Preservation court was created.

"We offer services they could never get. And out in the community, they wouldn't have access to," said Duplantier.

It's an intense program. When addicts, like Todd Romero and Angela Morgan first enter the program, they see a therapist 4-times a week, each session is 3 hours, they're drug tested twice a week, and meet with a judge every other week. The program typically lasts for 9-months.

"This program is tougher than any other program they'd go through with the department," said Duplantier.

"If a parent is willing to get sober and live a different way of life and become a responsible human being, they get their kids back," said Jacob Corbell, program coordinator.

Corbell says it's by no means an easy road for addicts, and every family is different. In Angela and Todd's case, outpatient treatment didn't work. The program set them up for inpatient treatment, which eventually led them to sobering up and getting full custody of their children. And they're not the only success story, in just a year and a half, the program has reunited five families.

"The progression of what they've done and what we've seen happen is almost a miracle for some of us," said Duplantier.

The program's therapist Mark Tucker says it's not just about helping the parents sober up, but about treating the whole family and teaching parents how to live as responsible adults in the community.

"One of the greatest parts of my job is to see an individual when they first come in and they're broken down, they're devastated, they have no self-esteem and slowly overtime, watch them rebuild that self-esteem and self-worth," he said.

Todd and Angela say they could never have sobered up without the help and support of this program.

"The family preservation court really gave me a second chance because DCFS and a lot of people gave up one me and they really fought for us. Don't give up and trust the people that are out there trying to help you," Angela added.



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