Healing on the Path to Family Reunification

If a biological parent can gain the tools and resources they need to provide a safe and happy home for their child, reunification is likely to be the primary outcome of a foster care placement. Reunification is an incredible milestone, and can only be possible with community support. The people who work with families on the path to reunification, like foster parents and case workers, make an impact that will be felt in families and communities for generations to come. 

After mother and baby tested positive for illegal drugs at birth, Katy’s* son, Ben*, was placed in foster care. Katy received services from One Hope United, and she later elected to participate in a voluntary home visiting program. After more than seven months apart, on August 27, 2021, Katy was reunited with her son. Katy and her OHU Case Manager, Maria Guzman, have continued their close relationship, and communicate regularly. Maria told Katy she will always be available if she needs anything. Maria said, “my job is to make sure Ben is safe at all times, and that Katy has someone in her life that she can count on.” Maria still visits Katy and Ben once a week to check on their progress, and though DCF only required Katy to participate in one parenting class, she has chosen to enroll in two programs for additional support. Maria described Ben as “a happy, healthy, chunky little baby.” 

“Katy accepted any and all help offered to her,” Maria shared. “She was always on time or early for visits, and came prepared with diapers, wipes, extra clothes, formula, and even a small bed for Ben to nap in.” 

Maria worked closely with Katy week-by-week to complete her case plan, often texting or talking on the phone with Katy after hours to answer parenting questions, and to check in on Katy’s mental health. Katy enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program soon after Ben was placed in foster care. Because Ben was removed at birth, Katy had about 3 hours each week to visit and bond with her child. After a few months, Katy had the funds she needed to sign a home lease, and soon after, Maria was able to conduct a home study. Katy moved closer to reunification when she was approved for unsupervised home visits. 

“Katy approached any feedback we shared with her with an open mind. She has a positive outlook on life and was consistently cheerful and engaged when spending time with Ben during visits. Even today, she will say things like ‘teething irritability is the best thing ever,’ because she is able to be there with Ben for that developmental milestone,” Maria said. 

Katy faced significant obstacles on her journey toward building a happy life for Ben and for herself, many of which originated in her childhood, which left her with little support from her family. Throughout their childhood, Katy’s siblings had an open case with child protective services, but their mother often pressured them to hide the truth of their lives from their caseworkers. She and her siblings silently endured abuse from their mother, as well as mood swings caused by their mother’s multiple personality disorder.

Katy’s older brother often sheltered her and her younger siblings from the worst of the abuse, and he mostly raised his younger siblings on his own. When he passed away, Katy struggled with depression, and felt the walls that had housed her childhood trauma for so long coming down. After Katy’s mother kidnapped her niece and tried to coach Katy on what to say to authorities at the hospital, she “felt the blinders coming off of her eyes,” and realized her mother did the same to her and her siblings as children. When Katy’s niece was placed in foster care, and Katy could not claim guardianship of her niece, she turned to drugs to cope. Katy tried to begin counseling, but could not continue sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic. She became pregnant with her son Ben less than one year later. 

After working for nearly a year to be reunited with Ben, Katy is working with a psychiatrist who has helped her see that she can have “a healthier, more positive mental health baseline.” She has also completed a substance abuse program and is now sober. Katy is currently participating in several family programs and services voluntarily, including a support group for parents who have been recently reunified with their children. Katy shared that she finds comfort and support in conversation with other parents who have experienced similar struggles. She shared, “If I had known these support systems were available when my niece was in my care, I would have taken advantage of them.” 

Katy’s long-term goal is to move where she can be closer to extended family members who provide unconditional love and support. Her case will be open for an additional six months, during which time Maria will conduct unannounced home visits. Katy will also continue to engage with parent support groups as part of her family safety plan. 

Ben is now seven months old. Katy shared that she feels relieved to be able to care for her baby, and is now enjoying their creative routine, which is centered around Ben’s cognitive development. They went to the beach together for the first time on August 28, one day after reunification. 

Maria concluded, “Katy is a beautiful person, and Ben’s happy smile is contagious. If Katy continues on the road she has chosen, she will be successful.” 

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 


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