Shaquita S., Parent
November 22, 2019
I remember heartache and hurt. Demond and I were upset at ourselves; it was our mistake that led to foster care. Our kids were worried they would never come home. At visits, our oldest would ask, “When can I come home? Can you come get me?”
The visits were an essential part of reunifying with our kids. We came to Bethany three times a week for one-hour visits. That limited time was hard for us, because we were used to having our kids with us every day. Consistently coming to visits showed the agency that we wanted to engage with our kids; it showed our kids that even though we’d made mistakes, Mommy and Daddy were still here. Each time I came to Bethany, I thought, I need to do this. My kids need me. I needed them as well.
The visits helped ease my mind about my children’s foster parents. I was in foster care as a child, and I didn’t have a good experience. When I regularly saw the kids, I could see they were being cared for, and the foster parents cared for us too. They’d ask, “Do you need transportation? Do you need us to come to you?” They were wonderful, and our connection with them meant a lot. Demond and I don’t have family nearby, and we don’t have much support. I still keep in contact with the foster families, so they know how the kids are doing. Over a year and a half, Demond and I did couples therapy together, and we also did individual counseling at the YWCA. At Bethany, we had three visits with the kids each week, we went to a Parenting After Trauma class, and we attended support group meetings with other parents who were trying to get their kids back.
At first, I felt like I was jumping through hoops because this is not my first time having a child in foster care. I have a daughter who is 6 years old; because of some issues with her father, I no longer have custody. I was afraid the state would take my kids this time because I had already lost a child. Kristen, our Bethany caseworker, assured me, “We’re not here to take your kids; we’re here to help you get your kids back, but it’s up to you to do what you need to do to make that happen.” It’s more than just showing up to visits. There’s a lot parents have to do. But Demond and I were willing to work together so we could be there for our children and eventually be together as a family again.
Bethany’s office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers this eight-week class for parents while their kids are in foster care. Parenting After Trauma helped us understand how it affects a child to be home one minute and gone the next, not understanding what’s going on. Sometimes at visits we could sense when something was off in the kids’ behaviors, and that was something we could talk about in class.
There were times I cried in class when we talked about the effect our actions and behaviors had on our children. Early in our relationship, Demond and I had been through some domestic violence situations. We talked a lot about that—specifically how it affected our oldest son.
Since the kids came home last summer, Demond and I haven’t had an argument yet. We’ve had disagreements, but we’ve learned how to go to our corners to cool off and then come back and clarify: What did you say? What did you think was going on? And we’ll talk about it. We learned how to do that both in couples counseling and in Parenting After Trauma. We never stopped asking, “When are the kids coming home?” Once the court grants approval, the children can slowly transition home over a period of 90 days while foster care continues to oversee the case and support the family.
Kristen, our caseworker, was always reassuring.
After 60 days, the kids began their transition home. I was for sure not going to mess that up.
I was nervous. The kids had been gone for so long. I was especially nervous about our oldest son because he had become really attached to his foster parents. He had such conflicting emotions—happy to be home, yet sad to leave his foster family.
The first week the kids were home, we did a few special things as a family. We went to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and we went to see “Incredibles 2.” We spent some time outside at the park, but mostly we stayed home and loved each other.
Honestly, I didn’t think then that Demond and I would still be together. I didn’t think we could have accomplished all of this together. After the kids are in bed, we talk a lot about all we’ve been through. The kids have been home a few months, but it feels longer than that. And last month, Demond’s son joined us from Chicago and will be a permanent part of our family. It’s busy around here, but good busy.
All that we did for the last year and a half was worth it to have our kids back. It’s tiring and time-consuming, but it’s our kids. We made the mistake; we fixed it. It’s worth it to have our babies under one roof, knowing they’re secure in their family and in their home.