Reunified – what a beautiful word. You – dear mother, dear father – have done the hard work of proving to the court that you are a more than adequate parent for your child. You have been put to the test more than most parents ever will be. I am not here to judge or make a claim on whether or not it was fair or right for the children to be taken away in the first place (regardless, I have mourned with you), but I am here to rejoice with you that your children are back home and that is a direct testament to the kind of person and parent you are.
You did not give up. You visited with your children every chance you could. You listened to the court, even when it wasn’t fun to hear what they had to say. You advocated for yourself and your family, even when it felt like no one else was. You made hard decisions concerning your lifestyle and let a caseworker get all in your business. You got to know the people temporarily caring for your child and weren’t afraid to let them into your life (all while trying not to be envious of every precious smile and snuggle they were sharing with your children). You ached daily with loss and analyzed every moment leading up to your children being taken away. You did not let others remarks about your parenting weary your spirit. You did not give up. And you did all of this because you were that child’s parent and you couldn’t bear the thought of them no longer being with you.
And now, they are home! This is something truly worth rejoicing with you about. Only about half of the children entering foster care get to go back home with their families. You made it into that positive 50% and you are a ROCK STAR parent. Do not let anyone tell you differently.
And in the midst of all this celebration and the sigh of relief that your children are home, please do not forget that the war is not over for your children and your family. You will be severely tempted to grab your children and run as far away as you can from the caseworker that got into your business too much and from that family providing temporary care who stole your kid’s snuggles and smiles. You will want to separate yourself as much as possible from the system that tore your family apart; however, that same system wants to see you succeed and desires to support you when you need it. More importantly, I and the Body of Christ want to help you continue to restore your family, for God has restored us into His family. You are not in this alone.
In 2011, nearly 12% of families that were reunified had their children taken back into care within 12 months. We want to help you stay out of that 12%. Needing or wanting support does not make you a bad or weak parent; it makes you an amazing, courageous, & strong parent. There is a reason that God gave us a community of brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is because we NEED one another (no matter what kind of family you are or belong to). Bringing your family back together is not always going to be a walk in the park; often it looks more like mini battles where your children are out of control and you have grown weary of doing the right thing (we have all been there). The stress and trauma of being away from one another for a period of time is enough to make it difficult. Please do not do try to do it alone. Caseworker and social support are the two strongest factors in successful reunification. We are rooting for you and know you can do it.
The Forgotten Initiative (TFI) seeks to bring joy and purpose to the foster care community as a whole and that includes you and your children as a reunified family. Please do not hesitate to contact your local TFI representative, local foster care agency, and/or local church and tell them that you need their support, because you are an awesome parent. They will be there to rejoice & mourn with you.
Written by Jessie Heckenmueller