Local mother battles drug addiction to regain custody of kids

The Mahoning County Juvenile Court has a program to help addicted parents regain custody of their children

Families are being broken apart by the drug epidemic, and the Mahoning County Juvenile Court has been running a program for years which can help.  Jess Wells is one person who is benefitting from the program.


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Families are being broken apart by the drug epidemic, and the Mahoning County Juvenile Court has been running a program for years which can help.

Jess Wells is one person who is benefitting from the program.

She has been working to stay clean, but it’s tough. She finished residential treatment in April but keeps seeing the effects of drug abuse around her.

“And I’ve lost one person a week due to this epidemic, this disease,” said Wells. “That’s a lot of people to lose.”

Jess was addicted for 15 years. She started abusing alcohol at age 11, went to pain pills, marijuana and eventually something much stronger.

“I didn’t want to wake up in the morning,” said Wells. “I didn’t want to be alive. It was miserable, and now just waking up and getting out of bed is another miracle.”

She shares those miracles while going through Family Dependency Treatment Court while trying to regain custody of her three children.

Children Services works with a court liaison to monitor a person’s progress and success, which includes regular drug testing.

“We legitimately care,” said Christopher Fink, of Mahoning County Children Services. “We want to see you succeed. A lot of programs, people think this is just your job, but it’s not.”

The program requires a change from the person, and they need to realize that the court, Children Services and other providers are looking out for their best interests.

It has been through many changes as the drug problem has switched from cocaine and marijuana to heroin, but at the root of it all is working with people like Wells who really want change.

“But once they get their foot in the door, they do see that we’re there for them, and they do want to make change in their life and be reunited with their children,” said Marisa Litch, court liaison.

There are three phases to the program, and each lasts about 12 weeks. Wells is in the final phase.

Children Services is ready to back her request to the court for returning custody of her children after seeing everything she has done and how the family has responded.

“I’m just very proud of the progress she’s made and the family, they’re behind her 100 percent,” said Fink.

“Just knowing that I did what I needed to do to make the courts happy, and in the long run, make myself a happier person, it’s wonderful,” said Wells.

There are 15 other people in the Family Dependency Treatment Court Program right now, after two graduated a few weeks ago. The most people it has ever had at one time was 29.

“27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis, Impact on Families” will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13 on WKBN 27 First News and WKBN.com.

This is the third panel discussion that WKBN has held on the issue. See all of WKBN 27 First News’ stories on the epidemic in our “Heroin Crisis” section.

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