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My Adopted Son Is in the Criminal Justice System

B&W profile on stone steps

thislifesucks showed up at her son’s court date, but kept to herself for most of the time. He’s chosen to live with his birth mom and they are making some pretty poor choices together. He’s facing criminal charges and they are going to have to find one way or another to work through this together for now…. he just turned 18.

We were back in court yesterday, for my son's criminal charges. I debated whether or not to go, trying to balance my own self-care with supporting my son. Ultimately, my husband and I did go, but I remained focused on my phone, rather than engaging in any small talk with my son. At this point, his rejection is too still too raw, and I find it easier to emotionally close the door on our relationship, for now, because I assume it will be this way for many, many years.
Birth mom is trying to get my son a job at the nursing home where she works; the lawyers made it clear to them both that my son will never pass the background check; that these are serious, adult charges, and there is no quick and easy resolution to them. His indecent assault charge looks to be headed to trial, at least for now, so that's about a year away. He will take a plea deal on his B&E charge, because there's no point in fighting something he's so clearly guilty of. However, since he's only been out on bail for 2 weeks, the state wants to see more evidence of him making better choices. In a month, he will have to show school attendance records, some grades, and proof of engagement in SUD counseling. Birth mom asked if NA or AA attendance would suffice, as "they both work"; this made me very angry, as she completely ignores the principals of both, as well as Al Anon, even while suggesting I might find Al Anon helpful. I admit I couldn't hold my tongue, and commented loudly to my husband later that I wondered what the AA stance was on former cocaine addicts smoking weed on a regular basis.
When we later went in front of the judge, my son asked that my husband and I not be allowed in the courtroom. The judge allowed us to stay, since we're his parents, and birth mom's rights have been terminated, but said it could be discussed going forward. As we left the courtroom, he commented that he was sorry to see such hostility between the parties. The lawyer for the indecent assault charge then pulled all of us aside to explain to my son that it's in his best interest to have us in the courtroom; that his job will be much easier if the judge likes him; that it was a big deal for the judge to make that comment, and that we need to find some way to put a good face on this when we're in court. He also impressed on my son, many, many times, that he is going to have to stop smoking, as he's going to have to start passing drug tests. That if he doesn't pass drug tests, he will be locked up, and the lawyer will have a very difficult time getting the best outcome for this situation.
So later in the day, my son posted a video of him smoking (presumably weed) in the car. It's now on he and birth mom to figure this out. But I can't see the other 3 adults in the house not smoking, to support my son. And even if they did, I don't think he's willing to stop.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for at this point, just wanted to provide an update.

Having a child snub you is painful. Having a child, for whom you are doing everything possible to put their life on a better track, snub you is insulting. Having his birth mother and siblings actively derail your son is criminal, but there you are.

You are doing all you can for your son. His birth mother is like a “bad boyfriend/ girlfriend” in this scenario. Ignore her. Don’t make this about her in any way to your son. It’s almost a guaranteed backfire, as parents have experienced when trying to get involved with their Loved Ones’ choice of partner.

You’ve got a lot of criminal justice involvement. Show up as you’ve done. Keep a low profile as you’re doing. Your son just turned 18 – wow – that’s some transition to adulthood for him.

I don’t see your son stopping the cannabis for 30 days, the time it takes the drug to completely leave his system and urine test negative. So he will get further structure by the criminal justice system in the near future.

Stay open, loving, helpful in navigating the next right steps as you are called to, and then step away. Lick your wounds, focus on your life and the rest of your family. Hold this position. I’d say this is the line between what you can and cannot control in this situation.

Life with an aggressively defiant teenaged boy is so hard to stomach. It can also be a powerful practice in not taking things personally. So many other parents on the site – and beyond – have experienced this tempestuous and harmful behavior from their Loved Ones. He’s acting out left and right, testing all the limits and seemingly unimpressed by any consequences – for the moment.

This is where he is now. It doesn’t erase all of the love and care you have put into raising him. It doesn’t mean he will stay this way forever. The more you can pull your thoughts back in, care for yourself and let go of that which you cannot control, the more grounded you will be in the instances when are called in to show up for him.

Being open and loving – forgiving even – and communicating with clarity and compassion is something you Can do. But it won’t be easy if you’re still smarting from the wounds of his painful choices – or harboring resentment about his birth mom and the very poor choices they may be making together. Making peace with that is the next step – and the more space and time you have to work through that, the better.

It is meaningful that the lawyer counseled you all to put aside these differences. Showing up without any hostility or resentment may not be what your son or anyone else expects you to do. But you can do your part with this. Catching someone off guard with love and compassion when they expect you to be engaging in anger and resentment can be very powerful. Who knows what you will be called in to help with. Prepare yourself on the one hand to step in as needed with meaningful help and support, but accept on the other hand that this may not happen.

Take your time alone to nurse these wounds and find your center so that when the time comes, your openness and loving communication is the most genuine it can be. Even if the opportunity is awkward and limited – as in this recent court appearance – make it count.

We are here for you and holding space for you. Keep leaning on us, use the Sanctuary and any other positive supports you have, as much as you need. Take good care of yourself. Thanks for writing in.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)