Weirs benefits from Strengthening Families program

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 2/14/24

LINN   —   After hitting rock bottom, losing their kids, and feeling lost, Jason and Christine Weir of Bland managed to overcome addiction through treatment programs and the …

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Weirs benefits from Strengthening Families program


LINN    After hitting rock bottom, losing their kids, and feeling lost, Jason and Christine Weir of Bland managed to overcome addiction through treatment programs and the Strengthening Families course offered by the Osage County AntiDrug Community Action Team (OC-ADCAT) in Linn.

Last week, OC-ADCAT VP Charlotte Bellsmith and Executive Director Lorie Winslow told Osage County commissioners the seven-week program is aimed specifically at families with youth aged 10-14. It’s flexible to extend downward to children eight years old and upwards to high school students as old as 16. Families attend together one Monday evening per week over the seven-week course. Each gathering centers around a shared meal, with much of the food donated or prepared by volunteers. The rest of it is classwork and discussion facilitated by videos and instructors.

“What intrigues us about it is that we don’t just work with the parents or the kids,” Winslow explained. “It’s not just for families who are in trouble; it’s for any family.”

Winslow said she was excited to report all graduating families displayed increased confidence. They’re calmer in their home life after the seven completing the program.

“They know it’s going to make a stronger family,” Bellsmith added.

Winslow noted how sons and daughters respond to their parents studying with them. “For the kids to see their parents doing this is a big deal,” she said.

Strengthening Families aims to change the family dynamic from competition to cooperation. Parents come to empathize more with what kids face at school and in society. They are then more deliberately supportive. Kids, in turn, understand more of what parents must encounter to make a household work from day to day. Mutual understanding is better and more desirable at the end of the course.

Winslow sees kids coming to the realization that “Mom and Dad have other things besides ‘me’ to worry about.” The program’s emphasis is reaching kids at or before their middle school years.

“The whole goal is to get to families before they have to go to Family Court,” Bellsmith added. “It might keep them out of there. It really makes a difference in the family dynamic.”

Strengthening Families’ curriculum claims to be the best drug-prevention tool in the country. Some states are now requiring it for high school graduation.


How does one partner thrive when the other is trapped in a world of drugs, lies, and secrecy? Can they function together, or does it drive them apart?

These and other questions came to the forefront when the Bland couple juggled to keep their drug use a secret from their two sons, 14 and 12.

All outward appearances indicated the family was fine, but there were signs.

“She would take the kids to church and tell people I was sick,” Jason said.

Christine added, “I was actually going to church high, and nobody recognized it.”

“She had ADHD, and meth would calm her down,” Jason said. “I was like a big red truck. I would always do everything. I would look like a walking dead person.”

Eventually, though, the situation became untenable.

“I decided that enough was enough, and I stopped,” said Christine, who has been clean for 16 months. “I looked at my kids, and I couldn’t picture them being raised by anybody other than me.”

Jason wasn’t quite ready to join her, which created friction. “It caused a lot of fights,” he said. “I didn’t think I could live without it. I had to wake up, and meth helped. If I wasn’t doing that, I was drinking. I would be at the gas station at 6:30 in the morning to get beer.”

That’s how Jason started his morning every day, but there was more to it. “I felt normal after I got myself right with the drugs or alcohol,” he said. “I’d go home, get the kids up and dressed, and take them to school.”


One day, Jason took his kids to school, and officials noted oddities that concerned them enough to make a hotline call to the Division of Family Services (DFS).

“I didn’t think I got close enough for them to see me, but apparently one of the teachers saw how I looked,” Jason said, noting that it wasn’t long before DFS visited his home to determine the validity of the school’s concern. “They told me they had received allegations saying there might be drug use. I was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m good.’ I told them they were welcome to search the house.”

That’s when things fell apart, and the house of cards crashed on the Weirs.

“ I failed to remember that when I got high, I hid some baggies and pipes in a spot,” Jason said. “I forgot about them, and when the cop came in the house searching, I was like, you know, there’s nothing in here. We had some presents for the kids in a closet, and I forgot I put that stuff up there. Christine had put a present there, and he went to move the boxes. All the stuff fell on the floor because I forgot it was up there.”

The officer called everyone to the kitchen to show what he found and asked who it belonged to. “I asked where it came from, and the cop told me,” Jason said. “I took responsibility for it, said it was all mine. He went and found some more stuff, and that was it.”

Jason acknowledged that hiding it was natural for him in his state of mind then, but he realized that his sons, then 13 and 11, could have found it.

“I tried to keep it put up or whatever, but in your state of mind, when you’re like that, you don’t realize how stuff can happen,” Jason said. “We didn’t do it in the same room with them, but I know when we were smoking that it went into the walls, and then it comes out of your pores and stuff like that. We didn’t lay it out in front of them and say, ‘That’s mine, don’t touch it,’ or anything like that. But we were definitely a little careless about it sometimes.”

“They knew what we were doing, though,” Christine added.

Jason was arrested, and Christine paid the bond to have him released. 

DFS took their sons into custody, which was a heavy-duty reality check for the Bland couple.

“We started the downward spiral of being at the house, and the kids are gone, and it was dead, and I couldn’t get high,” Jason said, noting he and Christine went from a $50 per day habit to a $400 daily cost for drugs.

“We were just in a state of shock, trying to figure out everything,” Christine added. “We talked to DFS workers to find out who had our kids and to see when we could get visits or what we need to do.”

Maries County Prosecuting Attorney May Watson charged Jason with three counts of child endangerment, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Christine faces charges of three counts of child endangerment because authorities believed she knew about the situation and did not intervene, making her culpable.


They decided to pursue treatment through Family Court, an intensive program designed to accelerate a potential reunion with their sons.

“We had a meeting with them, and they told us we should not start this program unless we were serious about our treatment and getting clean,” Christine said.

“Everyone says, ‘I’m serious, let’s do it,’ but we were serious,” Jason added, noting that Watson calls periodically to see how they’re doing. When they go to court, she postpones it for another couple of months.

“This program has done a lot for us,” Jason said. “We got in trouble not too long ago because we were seeing the kids a little bit longer than we were supposed to. We got caught up. We were sanctioned for that and had to write a report, but the program is set up where whatever you have, you never lose. You pause, and then you fix the problem, and move on.”

As Christine and Jason began treatment, their sons were placed with foster families for a short time before DFS approved a friend to care for them.

However, that arrangement didn’t last long because Jason and Christine discovered the friend was using drugs. “It got bad,” Jason said. “We tried to overlook it because our kids were there, and we were doing good and having visits with our sons. But, toward the end, they were getting pretty bad, so we had to say something to our DFS worker. He said they might be able to look for an alternate place to put our kids because at that time, in our treatment, we were supposed to be taking responsibility.”

They knew the situation was not good for treatment. “Knowing that our kids were in a place like where they got taken out of was hard for us,” Christine said.

The couple works at McDonald’s in Owensville, and one of their managers heard them talking about the situation. “She told us to give DFS her name and said she was willing to take them,” Jason said. “It came out of the blue.”

That was the best scenario for the two boys, and Christine and Jason are grateful.

Another aspect of their recovery is faith. “We got back in with the church and started getting our faith back,” Christine said of their attendance at Bland Christian Church. “It’s been a good placement with them, and they’ve been doing a really good job. We’ve been working our program.”

Jason agreed. “We’ve been staying clean and going to our self-help groups,” he said. “We go to three self-help group meetings and two classes a week through the treatment center. On Mondays and Thursdays, we go to Celebrate Recovery.”


Jason and his family were at a relative’s house when he decided to use with his sons present and overdosed.

“I went outside with my buddy and didn’t realize how much I’d done until afterward,” Jason said. “My friend told everyone inside that I was drunk outside. I had tunnel vision and don’t remember half the night. It was an accident because I was drinking at the time. It was a combination of alcohol and meth.”

Christine left him there and took their kids home.

“She made an excuse to get me out of the car, and as soon as I got out, she left,” Jason said. “That was one of my wake-up calls.”

The next day — “scared and freaking out” — Jason went home and tried to make things right.

“I turned 41 this year, and I’m like, it’s either get caught with some drugs, lose my kids and wife and go to jail for the rest of my life, or quit doing drugs and try to havve my family,” Jason said. “So, you know, the smart decision is trying to have a family. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in prison or run from the cops or get killed or anything or any of that stuff.”

Jason added, “I’ll die for my kids, but drugs blind you so much that you overlook what is most important to you. You just get high and think you’re a good person doing the right thing and being a good parent, but you’re not.”

He further explained that providing clothing and food is not all children need from parents. “We were making a very unsafe environment and basically paying them to be quiet, so they would shut up because we don’t want the cops called or we take them in unsafe places we shouldn’t take them, even though we knew the people and that they could have got busted,” Jason said. “What if someone would have pulled a gun on somebody in there?”

Christine and Jason are grateful DFS stepped in because it created an opportunity for redemption.

“I’m thankful they came in and took my kids this time,” he said. “I tell them every time I get a chance I’m thankful they did because if they didn’t take my kids, I would not have woken up.”

However, Jason still holds a bit of a grudge against the agency. “I hold it against them for all the pain my kids went through, but it was really me that caused it,” he said.

“I think part of the process is waking up and remembering I don’t have my kids, and I miss them so much,” Christine added. “Maybe that’s more important than getting high.”

Family Court treatment rules are very similar to those employed by the Drug Treatment Court. However, the Weirs have a different judge and travel to Hermann for court.

“We’re not allowed to take any medications with alcohol or amphetamines in it,” Jason noted. “We are not allowed to gamble. We have curfews, a thing on our phones that goes off periodically, and we have to take a picture of ourselves throughout the day. We have to do random drug tests three to four times a week.”

“We’ve passed every one so far,” Christine said.

Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger handles the Weirs’ case, and the first time Jason met her — well before his current interaction with the court — was not pleasant.

He explained that his then 13-year-old daughter was dating an 18-year-old in Illinois. “She ran away and they couldn’t find her, so I went up there, found her, and I brought her down here,” Jason said. “I was high, and (Judge Brehe-Krueger) caught me. She locked me up for three days for contempt of court. That was the first time I met her. Then, I had to go back for this stuff. She’s seen how far I’ve come and how good I’ve been doing. At first, she didn’t want to look at me too much, but now we go in there and have good talks; she has treated us fairly. There are certain things she brings up that we don’t want to hear, but it’s part of treatment and part of our recovery. Sometimes, I don’t get it, and sometimes I do, but the best thing to do is learn and move on.”


The Weirs attended Strengthening Families three times last year. They opted to take it again because of the value involved, especially since the alternative is not pretty.

This year, the Weirs regained partial custody of their sons, acknowledging that was only possible through the Family Court treatment and Strengthening Families programs.

“The boys were upset, and our youngest still holds a grudge a little bit against us,” Christine said.

“We learned that we don’t live in the past,” Jason added. “We live in the future, and nobody’s perfect. We had to just go on from where we were at. We apologized to them, and for a long time, we tried to use money to buy their love back. It was making it worse.”

Strengthening Families teaches parents ways to interact with their children to develop healthy boundaries. “It gives us a point of view on how we can handle things more besides bribery, I guess you could say, because that’s how we were used to handling things,” Jason said.

“We’ve been trying to break that and go to the park more and do things with them that don’t cost a lot of money, like taking them bowling or doing family things together, instead of pushing them off and going out by ourselves,” Christine said.

Jason noted that he and Christine are attending Strengthening Families again because they were having issues with the kids. “They reassured us a second time to come up here and go through this parenting class up here in Linn would help,” he added. “We’re just trying to get everything we can out of it again because we enjoy it a lot, and the kids enjoy coming up here, too.”

A Family Court caseworker visits the Weirs weekly to help with budgeting, parenting skills, and resources they might need for help with bills. “She has been going over with us like discipline, reward charts, and stuff like that with certain things that we were having difficulties with, like healthy boundaries,” said Jason.

Christine added she appreciates Strengthening Families because of the help provided on many items. “My youngest son is autistic, and if I have any questions or need help with him, they’re always there to answer my questions and to help me out,” she said. “I recommend this program for young parents, old parents, or even people who don’t have kids because they teach a lot.”

For more information on Strengthening Families and other programs, visit