Reunification by John E. Stack

It has been a while since I’ve written about foster care, but I felt that I needed to share this.  If you know anything about foster care, then you know that one of the main objectives is reunification of the child with their birth parents.  As a foster care provider, aka foster parent, our job is to keep the child safe until the court says it is okay for the child to go home.  We have found that this may take a year, eighteen months or even 3 years.

If the birth parents do what the courts ask, then they will receive temporary custody of their child(ren).  If all goes well, then after six months they will receive full custody and the Department of Social Services (DSS) will step out of their lives.  If not, then parental rights will be removed and the child will be put up for adoption.

In the eleven years that we have been foster parents, we have had one child be returned to her mother.  We have had several where the birth parents have signed their rights away and had decided from the beginning that they could not provide a stable home for a child.  The one that did go home was a special situation and her mom did everything she needed to do, plus some.

Anyway, number twenty-two, may be the second child to make her way back home.  I’ll call her Abbie.  We received Abbie when she was two weeks old.  She had gastrointestinal problems which resulted in colic.  Most babies out grow colic in about four months or less.  Abbie’s lasted about five and a half months.  About two and a half months ago, the court decided to give her placement with her grandfather.  This was encouraged by DSS. We figure it was because in a relative placement they do not have to pay the monthly stipend.

Since the move, her grandfather has contacted us several times a week, sometimes to ask a question and others to send pictures.  He lives real close to Abbie’s mom and dad, so they have supervised visitation as often as they want it. This past week, we received a message from mom.  She wanted to know if we could come to Abbie’s first birthday party.  Of course we did, and we did everything we could to make it.

Abbie didn’t seem to know us at first – almost as if she was mad.  After about 30 minutes, she started to warm up.  She showed us how well she could crawl, which she was just starting before she was moved.  Now, she is cruising around the furniture getting ready to walk.  She has continued to put on some weight and appeared to be a truly happy toddler.

So, at the end of the month the mom and dad will find out if the courts are going to let them have their little girl back.  They have been working real hard to do all the things the court required.  She has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger, and I do believe her mom and dad too.

Maybe, just maybe, we are getting ready to see a second, successful reunification.  God’s miracles are often surprising and we are so happy to see this family receive his blessings.

In the meantime, we are at a crossroad.  Are we supposed to continue traveling this overwhelming adventure called foster parenting, or are we at that time in our lives where we need to allow someone else to enjoy the bumps, twists and turns of a path that usually ends in a broken heart.  We have been praying about this, but we can’t see where God has given us an answer, yet.  We are both at or near the age of retirement (I just turned 65 and I won’t say how old my better half is) and we are raising our nine-year-old.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God will tell us what to do.  That is how we started this journey and it is only right to end it that way.

I have a friend who moved away to another state and he called me recently to say they had completed foster parent training.  They had been asked to do respite care (short term) for a two-year-old (I believe).  Anyway, her time was up and her other foster parents were going to get her the next day.  His question to me was “So, how do you deal with this?”  My response was something like this, “First off, I never told you it would be easy.  Second, you have to realize that even your own kids were never your own.  In turn, this one is not yours either.  Third, prepare for a chunk of your heart to be ripped out and know that it hurts like hell.  Fourth, don’t be to big or to tough to cry, and know that it is okay when you do.  After the bleeding stops, God will heal that spot and will place another little one in your arms to help in the healing.  Take some time to regroup.  Suzanne says that every child in care deserves to have foster parents grieve when they leave.  Otherwise, you are not doing your job.  Love you guys.”

Have you ever considered foster parenting?  Know that if you do, you can change the lives of the children you care for and better yet, you can become a person that you thought you could never be.  You will know great blessings and many broken hearts.  People use the excuse that they could never let the children leave because they would fall in love with them.  For some children, you could be the first one to fall in love with them.  What a concept – to be loved so much by someone they couldn’t bear to let you go.  That’s called a family.  Take a chance and change a life.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

2 Comments

Filed under writing

2 responses to “Reunification by John E. Stack

  1. Wow! Just reading this could change a life.

  2. John, I’m sensing that the time for you and your wife to retire from fostering is near since you’ve mentioned it a couple of times recently. You both have done such a wonderful and useful job throughout the years, perhaps it is time. You still have your nine year old child to raise and you can pour your love and devotion in that direction. I know your faith is strong and God will tell you when it is time and help guide you through the transition. Bless you both. You have been good and faithful servants.

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