One of the things that I struggled to find information on was what to expect when the children came home from foster care. Of course, as I have stated, few people actually talk about their cases if they end with reunification for multiple reasons but this led us to believe that no children ever came home. This made us question ourselves for having hope. This added to the fears, to the uncertainty, to the sleepless nights.
We could find articles created by CPS and family service groups giving advice that included using the help of the department to ease the transition.
Uhhhhmmmm, I BELIEVE THEY HAVE HELPED ENOUGH!
We had maintained a great relationship with the children and they certainly were ready to come home, but we knew that the last year would affect them in ways that we could not understand. I mean, after all, Elliott was only 3 months old when this started. He was an infant who had spent most of his life with the foster parents. He knew us, but he did not remember life before this. Clarabelle, as you will learn throughout the toddler talk posts (Why am I pretty?: Toddler Talk, Making Sense of Diversity: Toddler Talk, Understanding Gender: Toddler Talk, is very smart and aware of what is going on. When they took her, they claimed that she was nonverbal because she was 19 months old but BOY she could talk…A LOT! And she remembers things that most children would not.
She would ask to come home, often, and we would fight back our tears to avoid upsetting her and tell her that we were working on something to keep her safe and that her foster parents were helping us to by taking care of her. (I realize that some people would disagree with this approach but it was important for us to know that she was not scared. By giving her, reassurance we could focus on fighting for them to come home.)
Finally, the day came and, when we arrived to pick them up, with each item we carried to the van she asked if we were coming back in to get her and her brother. She was so excited that she nearly slipped on the rain covered steps heading to the van. We were together again which we thought meant this was all over for them. But it was not. There continue to be questions and we continue to answer them with their best interests in mind. Instead of telling them that they were stolen from their home we tell them that something bad happened once and it took a bunch of people to keep them safe. We tell them that we worked really hard to get them back really fast. In fact, Clarabelle says “Mommy and Gigi said, ‘give them back right now,’” and that’s how they came home.
But sometimes, late at night, after we have told all of our stories and sang her “own song,” she will ask, “did you miss me because I missed you with all my heart” to which I always reply, “every minute, every day, the whole time but we are together and safe and that is all that matters.”
They hear so much and go through so much during these cases that it is easy to forget that what the adults remember as normal may be different for the children. We, as the adults, just want our lives back that we had before that knock on the door. But the knock did happen and our families were shaken.
Don’t be afraid of the questions but be careful not to let your own memories of the battle affect the way that they heal.
When children ask, it is because they need to know!