Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Road to Reunification

Rose’s parents are doing well and working hard to do the things required of them in their Service Plans. In fact, the judge praised them both for their efforts at their last review hearing and because of their progress weekday visits are no longer being held at the DCFS building but in Rose’s mother’s apartment. Rose’s mother was absolutely elated when the Guardian Ad Liteum gave the approval to start transitional home visits and on the day of the first visit she excitedly invited me in and showed me all of Rose’s baby things which have been sitting in storage and have just been waiting to be used. In addition to home visits, Rose’s therapy/parenting sessions between her and her mom are being moved to every other week (rather than once a week) and the OT has agreed to hold the sessions in Rose’s mother’s home so it’s more of a natural, home environment. Also pending approval, weekend visits (which up to now have been supervised in a relative’s home) will be held at Rose’s dad’s place. 

At this point in time, Rose’s parents are living separately- which is a good thing and much safer than the alternative- I’ll just leave it at that. Although Rose will be returning to her mother’s custody and care, her father would still like to be a part of her life, too, which is why he has committed to completing the requirements in his Service Plan.

As reunification draws near (the Permanency Hearing is just 6 weeks away!) I am also full of conflicting desires and emotions of wanting Rose’s mother to succeed but wishing we could have this sweet baby as part of our family forever. As I mentioned before, Rose’s mother is doing great now- but I worry that she’ll have enough social supports in place to rely on when she has Rose full-time and when things get difficult. I’ve mentioned these same concerns with the caseworker.

If Rose’s mom were flaky and uncommitted in her efforts to get her daughter back, then I would have an especially hard time letting Rose go, but almost without exception she has always showed up to her visits and the few doctors or other appointments she has missed have been primarily due to work conflicts or legitimate sickness.

My biggest concern for Rose’s mother is what will happen when Rose is in her care full-time and she is not only thrust into the new role of being her primary caregiver, but balancing that with being a working, single mother as well. Who will she turn to when she gets sick or stressed out or just needs a break? As Rose’s foster mother, I’ve been her primary resource these past seven months and she’s been able to call or text me on occasions when she can’t make it to an appointment or visit, but when Rose is no longer in my care and when her mother finds herself in the role of full-time mom again (not to mention primary breadwinner as well) the option of “calling in sick” just won’t be there.

Another thing I’ve learned from the parents of our foster children regarding their support systems is that it’s not just a matter of simply having family members or friends around to rely upon for support in caring for their children, but it’s a matter of having appropriate family members and friends to turn to for support- those who are equipped to provide a safe environment for their child (because they would be able to pass a background check, if needed, in the case of providing kinship care or approved day-care) and individuals who aren’t struggling with the exact same issues that brought the foster child into care in the first place. In other words, domestic violence, abuse & neglect, and addictions are SO cyclical in nature.

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