Ask Covenant House

I don’t know where to start. About 11 years ago, my son & I moved abroad. He was only 5 & 1/2 then. We were all right on our own at that time without his father’s help as his favorite excuse was ‘one can’t draw blood from stone’, so I vowed to go it alone and even stopped trying. Then he came back into the picture shortly after he got divorced from a woman he’d only met after 5 months of being married to her and wanted to be a part of my son’s life. When my son turned 8 my son went back to Canada to live with his dad and had been living there since then. The plan was for him to come over during the summer & holidays which made it easier for me to let go of him. Only to find out that it wasn’t to be so due to financial constraints on his part, and I have to admit from mine, too, which prevented him from visiting me as often as I wanted.

Now he is 17. Although, last year, he came to live with me supposedly for good, he only stayed for 6 months and was forced to fly back to Canada again because his dad thought it was cheaper to pay for an expensive flight than to get us out of a temporary hole allowing us to keep our flat which was close to his high school.

As you can imagine, my relationship with my son has dwindled and had been estranged for a while now. Somehow, I feel that he blames me for abandoning him and I certainly don’t blame him for feeling that way. I am very disappointed at myself for having sent him to live with his dad at all, although my intentions certainly were good. But like they say, the road to perdition is lined with good intentions…

I don’t know where to start. About 11 years ago, my son & I moved abroad. He was only 5 & 1/2 then. We were all right on our own at that time without his father’s help as his favorite excuse was ‘one can’t draw blood from stone’, so I vowed to go it alone and even stopped trying. Then he came back into the picture shortly after he got divorced from a woman he’d only met after 5 months of being married to her and wanted to be a part of my son’s life. When my son turned 8 my son went back to Canada to live with his dad and had been living there since then. The plan was for him to come over during the summer & holidays which made it easier for me to let go of him. Only to find out that it wasn’t to be so due to financial constraints on his part, and I have to admit from mine, too, which prevented him from visiting me as often as I wanted.

Now he is 17. Although, last year, he came to live with me supposedly for good, he only stayed for 6 months and was forced to fly back to Canada again because his dad thought it was cheaper to pay for an expensive flight than to get us out of a temporary hole allowing us to keep our flat which was close to his high school.

As you can imagine, my relationship with my son has dwindled and had been estranged for a while now. Somehow, I feel that he blames me for abandoning him and I certainly don’t blame him for feeling that way. I am very disappointed at myself for having sent him to live with his dad at all, although my intentions certainly were good. But like they say, the road to perdition is lined with good intentions…

Now I feel like I have lost my son forever and no matter what I say or do will make things right for us both. I call him almost every day. Due to the 9 hour time difference, the only time I can speak to him is before he leaves for school in the morning or during weekends. I hardly get to speak to him because he’s either not at home or perhaps still asleep. When I do, he’s very cold and unresponsive.

His father tells me, he has been smoking pot a lot which he picked up when he was only about 12 or so and have been neglecting his schoolwork, sometimes, not attending school at all. They have been having a lot of problems at home because of this sometimes to the point of it getting physically violent. From what I know, the cops have come 3 or 4 times already. It has been very difficult for me as I have no means of being able to go back on a whim nor has his father offered any help in that regard. I love my son very much but I feel I have done him a huge wrong by sending him over to live with his dad thinking that he could provide for him a better life more than I could and have the father figure that he needed. But I was wrong… the only thing he hears from his father is how disappointed he is of him, of how much of a failure and a burden he is, of how he is affecting his health negatively, etc.. all these years, his father expects so much from him who technically is still a child and although he provides him with the material conveniences, he’s really never been there to guide and support him emotionally and psychologically.

The last time I spoke to my son was on his 17th birthday,  For the first time in many years, we had the most wonderful chat with no recriminations, no anger… just a lovely chat between mom and son. I expected he would be spending Christmas with his dad & dad’s girlfriend. So on Christmas day I rang to greet him a Merry Christmas only to find out that another fight had ensued between them right after his birthday and that he’s not come back home since then. They had fought about him smoking pot at home with a friend his dad never met before & he called the cops on him so he fled. He hasn’t come home since that time & I don’t know where he is. I have a feeling he won’t come back home as he no longer feels he has a home to come to. I have been ringing everyday in the hopes that someone would pick up and tell me what’s going on but to no avail. I’m sorry for being so long-winded but felt it necessary to explain our situation in detail. What can I do to help my son from where I am?

Our Response:

Keep calling your son even if there is no answer. He wants you to call every day. Email him regularly. Offer to bring him back to you, even for a visit/break. You can give him Covenant House information (call 604-685-7474 24/7).  You can call his school and try and speak with him during school hours in the Counselling Office (pre-arranged). NEVER GIVE UP so that your son knows you will never give up.

You should also contact Youth Services at 604-660-9376 and explain to them the circumstances. Ask for an intake worker.   If the intake worker is not receptive, ask for the team leader on shift.  This is a division of MCFD (Ministry of Child and Family Development) and they can create a file in case any agency has contact with the youth.  The Ministry could then assist the youth in getting all the necessary documentation to have him relocate to Mom’s.  The paperwork they will do is a custody agreement allowing Mom to have primary custody of her son.  This could take some time if the father is unwilling to sign the documents.  In the meantime the youth could be housed in one the safe houses run by the ministry.

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