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Reunification Story: Nelson

This month we celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 19th. For those of us lucky enough to have a father or father figure in our lives, we give thanks and celebrate. Fathers can be beacons of light and pillars of strength for those around them. Studies estimate that nearly one in three children live away from their biological fathers.

Tampa Bay’s own Tony Dungy is a strong advocate for a healthy father/ child relationship, and has been quoted as stating, “Dads who are fully engaged with their kids overwhelmingly tend to produce children who believe in themselves and live full lives.”

Each year in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco Counties, hundreds of parents complete the tasks necessary to make their homes safe so that they may be reunified with their children. Pasco County held their annual “Reunited” celebration on June 3, and Nelson Garcia was one of the more than 200 families reunited. Below we hear Nelson’s story from his previous struggles to his triumph of being a great father. 

nelson garcia
Nelson and his son at the Pasco Reunification Ceremony

Parenthood, it’s the most elite membership club in the world. It is the single most important factor in the future success or failure of our society. It is the responsibility to nurture, protect and guide our children in becoming key parts of a future generation. It is also a job that requires 100% effort and attention. Tragically though I feel uncomfortable in even assigning a percentage because several years ago I fell far short of that number. Short enough to require that the state intervene in the way I was handling my family affairs and save my child from what could have been categorized a reckless gambling of his welfare.

No matter how you twist it inside of your own head and brainwash yourself into thinking everything is just fine it is impossible to hide the ramifications of drug abuse inside the home from anyone. I know this now, but back then due to my own personal self-imposed ignorance, the establishment had to intervene and remove my children from their home.  There was resentment toward the state and even a feeling of big brother Goliath meddling and trying to control my life. The reality was that the state had come in and saved my children from parents that very much needed to change their lifestyle to be able to manage their own lives, let alone the lives of their children. We were incredibly fortunate that our families were able to take the kids and give them the nurturing that they needed.

At that point my children were in a safer environment, however my lifestyle had not changed, which of course was at the root of the entire problem to begin with. So with the kids not in the house, the negative lifestyle increased exponentially until this time it was the federal government that stepped in. Well, let me say that this was an immediate cure to all of the negative decisions and actions up to that point.  Very quickly, I had a new life in a federal prison where there were many days where 23 hours were spent staring at cinder block in a 6-foot by 9-foot closet.  Since I was already in a closet there was no closet to hide any regrets or skeletons, therefore they were all there with me at my side staring back at me. This is where I discovered true anguish and shame for the way that I had conducted myself as a parent.

I then embarked on a complete overhaul of every aspect of my life with the ultimate goal of reunification as my destination.  I started a letter writing dialogue with my son’s teacher and principal.  I spoke to my son on the phone as much as possible and garnished every aspect of a long distance relationship. I took advantage of every possible program that the prison system had to offer volunteering to be a mentor, a tutor and a member of the newsletter committee, and spent dozens of hours in the library reading, listening and viewing books, audio tapes and videos on addiction, self-improvement and parenting.   I set up immediate and long-term goals and upon release one of my first phone calls was to find someone with information on the process of reunification.  Someone then directed me to Leigh Williams who headed up that program.

Leigh gave me a step-by-step process of what I needed to do in order to reopen the case. I then with a clear and determined mind tackled my case plan compliance and in weeks completed what I had struggled to accomplish in a yea back in 2008.

These days I focus in preparing my son for every day, concentrating on self-esteem, education, health and most of all lots of fun! We just got back from a mini-vacation in which we attended his first baseball game, went to a water park, and visited a corvette museum. We also saw NHRA drag racing and road bumper cars, bumper boats and horses.

Our lives have been given a second chance and I will not even rip a tag off a mattress to jeopardize that.  These days instead of catching the next high, I catch a great fast ball.  My son now has 100% of his father!