The Beauty of Reunification

Written by an Arms of Love foster mom 

Picture of a babyBelow is the first-hand account of an Arms of Love foster family’s experience in fostering for the first time.  

Well, let’s see. How do I even begin to share about our first foster experience with our little guy and his sweet momma? Write a novel…easy. I could go on and on. 😉  

A short story… Geez, that’s a hard one. No promises. I guess if I could sum it up with a few words that our family has felt with our first foster experience as a whole, they would be… 

Blessed, Inspired, Challenged and Thankful  

I know that some of the biggest hurdles to overcome for my family and I when we were feeling God call us to foster care are some of the same hurdles that hold up many families from entering into this journey.  

“How can we love and care for a child like our own but yet still have to give them back?”   

“I can’t do it; I’d get too attached.”

“How can I communicate and coparent with bio mom and/or bio dad? They did this or they did that. We are so different.”

I know that God heard my thoughts, fears and prayers because He for sure answered them with little man and his mom. I truly feel like our first experience was God ordained because through it all, He has allowed us to see the beauty and success of reunification with a hard-working mom and her sweet and spunky baby boy.  My hope and prayer moving forward is that as we move through different case plans with little ones and families that need us to step into their mess and stand in the gap with them, that our hearts will not become cold and jaded by the system and negative experiences.  I pray we will always be able to keep an empathetic and compassionate heart for parents regardless of their challenges and continue to strive for reunification BECAUSE God graciously allowed us a glimpse at how amazing a successful reunification can be.   

Little man was with us a total of eight months and we started this journey by bringing him home from the NICU at just six days old.  God instantly was in the mix from the very start.  Shocker, I know. 😉 I don’t know why I am always so surprised by this. I should know this by now. God is never far away from the path He has called you on.  Even paths you opted for, where things go wonky and you fell astray.  He’s not far from those either.  He’s always ready to walk with you back to where He called you.  I vividly remember being on a team call in the hospital while picking little man up and being nervous to hear mom’s voice, hear her story and have her hear my voice. You know, me, the woman that is taking her baby home instead of her. I was so scared she’d be angry and accusatory towards me. That she would somehow see me as trying to take her baby. All the fears that I drummed up in my own head. However, I instantly was met with the voice of a mom that was feeling completely defeated and shameful by life choices and struggles, and scared as to where her baby was going. She was 100% honest, 100% accountable and 100% self-less in the fact that she wanted what was best for her son. Even if it meant him not being with her for the time being. She also was 100% driven and motivated to hit the ground running, turn the ship around in the right direction and put the work in for herself and her son. I instantly felt a sense of compassion, empathy and awe for her and a swift kick off my self-induced pedestal of pride. We are both children of God and equal in His eyes. Sure, her life experiences, choices and struggles aren’t the same as mine, many of which I can’t understand but I’ve got struggles and battles I fight as well.             

We all do. Society may define these struggles as better or worse but if God says a sin is a sin and there is no difference, who am I to judge and say my sins are not as bad or less than hers. They are not. The struggles we face are just different. We, however, are both the sinners. Here’s the truth, regardless of what society says, we are both in need of Jesus and both in need of a godly community and support. So, it was very clear to me that day on that team call that, this is what God called us too. To stand in the gap and be a support for her & little man. 

Those early months were challenging for sure. No sleep, lots of crying, lots of tummy issues and a lot of doctors’ visits. Oh, let’s not forget…COVID. That brought in a whole new challenge. However, in some aspects, I feel it actually brought about some good things too. Funny how God takes things that are bad and turns them around for your good. 😉  

With COVID, came virtual visits. I had heard how bad they were and awkward and so forth but if I were to be honest, I think virtual visits were awesome for mom and I to start building a relationship. Four times a week, an hour each visit, we sat and talked for months. Talked about how little man was doing.  Talked about some of his struggles. Talked about some things I was trying to do to help him. Laughed together at some of the funny moments and just in general connected. I can’t imagine being in his mom’s shoes and only getting to see your baby on Zoom for months. Talk about heart wrenching. But she did it anyway. She always showed up and was engaged and put his needs first in front of her own. Most of those early needs that she was able to meet were him not being with her, so she could focus on herself and do the hard work she needed to do. That way in the end, she could bring him home and meet all his needs. Tough work but she did it! Mom was at every doctor appointment and any opportunity she could see little man she was there. Eager to hold him and learn skills and techniques she needed for him. I got to witness first hand, little man and mom’s first inperson visit since his birth at a doctor appointment. It was so sweet to be able to see a nervous, firsttime mom trying to figure out how to hold a squirmy, tiny infant and that little baby who had been so fussy and always agitated for weeks, clearly recognize his momma’s voice and calmly stared at her as she was talking to him. Kind of like “Hey, I know you. I’ve heard you before”. I told my husband after I left that appointment, how much he recognized her and her voice and how much you could tangibly see how much she loved him. He was her son and she was his mom. No denying it. It was clear as day. Even in her inexperience as a first-time mom, you can’t change or separate that instant love. So cool to see.   

After virtual visits ended and mom was finally able to have inperson visits, our journal notebook became our vital source of contact and communication back and forth. Sharing basics like daily schedules as well as lots of funny things or challenges that were happening. That journal was so important. Very quickly the early months of challenges and struggles for little man quickly turned into him rolling over, playing, belly laughs, sitting, baby babble, spit bubbles, first solid foods, crawling everywhere and baby proofing everything filled our days! Those months also included mom working very hard on her case plan. As a first-time mom, she had the desire to learn the skills needed. She was eager and hungry to better herself. She was never just “talk” or excuses. Everything that was asked of her she did. Everything she said she was going to do, she did. Even the hard stuff she fought through. Talk about Inspiring!  

Those eight months were also filled with lots of worker visits, phone calls, texts, emails and appointments. Constantly advocating for little man’s needs and cheering mom on in her journey. We got into a good rhythm. To be honest, for my husband and I, a comfortable rhythm. Truthfully it was comfortable because little man was still physically with us. Every day. Every night. There was comfort and peace in the fact that he was always with us. In some ways, even though we “knew” he would be going home soon and even though that truly “is the outcome” we wanted for him it doesn’t make the actual going home process any easier. I kept hearing that “if you do your job as a foster parent well, you will hurt when they go home.” No way around it. You are taking on the heartbreak for them by loving them as your own and helping them create attachment skills with safe, loving adults. Somehow in a blink of an eye, eight months flew by and there we were right smack in the middle of the transition and reunification plan. There was our biggest fear, right in front of us. We loved and cared for him as our own and now we need to give him back. Now what? Well, we were constantly falling on our knees and praying. Asking God for strength and wisdom in this process of an unknown and out of our control future. Asking God for clarity to see this process through His eyes and not miss the beauty within it.  Constantly fighting all the fears in our mind of what if this and what if that. Intentionally striving to trust in God’s plan for little man and mom’s life.  Remembering the moments, we were blessed to see them together and see the love they had for each other. Knowing that God’s intent was never for families to be broken apart. Knowing that even when it is painful for us, God’s intent is for restoration and reunification. Praying that we would somehow be able to remain a part of their lives and provide a healthy support for them in the future, but just not knowing how or what that would look like. 

Well one thing I have learned in this first experience is that God does answer prayers. God still moves mountains and clears paths where there seems to be no way. We are beyond thankful for God’s answers to our prayer in allowing us to see a need of support for little man and his mom and allowing us the ability to step into that role. We are beyond thrilled that little man’s mom has been open and willing to us stepping into that roll of a support structure for them both. The official transition and reunification went very smoothly and truthfully there was a peace that we had knowing that he was back home with his mom, the way that it should have always been. It’s been such a blessing to our family to be able to walk alongside them. Talking with mom regularly and sharing pictures and the funny things that happen from the day. We’ve been blessed and are tremendously thankful to be able to see and care for little man regularly when his mom has to work long shifts weekly. We’ve been blessed to be allowed to come alongside mom and help her find regular childcare that we both feel comfortable with. Blessed to be able to walk alongside her and do our best to answer any questions and concerns she has, and blessed to offer support and aide whenever and however God wants us to.  Blessed to be able to tell our past selves, with all our fears and concerns, yes, it’s worth it and yes you can do it with God leading the way.  We have also been extremely blessed in the sense that our faith has totally been strengthened and renewed with tangible proof that God heard our prayers and answered them. 

Little man and mom are doing awesome and we get to enjoy watching and helping mom learn this new role in her life of being a mom as well as breaking many cycles and patterns in her life.     

Is this a common experience and outcome in foster care?  From what I hear, sadly no. However, is it possible and is this what foster care is all about?  Absolutely, yes! We are just thankful God showed us with our first experience what He can do and what foster care is all about. This is what we will hold onto and remember as we continue down this foster care path.