20 Mar The “R” Date
It was no typical Thursday. Firstly, it was Halloween and Sweet Baby Boy and I had just gotten home from watching Big Foster Bro in his school costume parade. We played a little and waited for the County Social Worker to arrive for her monthly visit. I expected to discuss the looming reunification time-frame, anticipating an increase from weekend visits to 3-4 days at a time as the next step in the transition.
Once she arrived, we discussed Sweet Baby Boy’s progress for a bit. Then the news came: the Reunification Date was tentatively set… for 8 days from today!! I was visibly taken aback. I expressed my surprise that the transition wouldn’t continue to be just that –a transition. (Looks like this will be done band-aid-style after all.) I tried to wrap my head around this information and what this meant for my family and Sweet Baby Boy. Suddenly our time together became all the more precious.
Following the visit, I put Sweet Baby Boy down for his nap, rocking him a little longer than usual and feeling especially tender in my movements. Then I called my Angels Clinical Case Manager. (The wonderful support she provides has on occasion trumped what would be an immediate call to Supportive Husband.)
She was a bit surprised as well, but talked me through the news, explaining the rationale behind such decisions. So much in a case depends on the style and judgment of the County Social Worker as well as the circumstances of the case itself. Drawing out the transition toward reunification over additional weeks can potentially cause more anxiety and confusion in a child than moving to reunify more suddenly.
In practice, is there any “preferred” way to reunify? How does one minimize the anxiety and uncertainty a child feels as they spend less time at home and more time with the bio-parent? It seems to me there is no easy way to do it. No matter what, it is hard on the child and hard on the family. There is no ‘testing’ what would have worked best in a particular case. All we can do is hope it goes relatively well.
A few days later a friend reminded me that children are resilient. This is true. Sweet Baby Boy is only 11 months old. He will soon be attached to his biological mother and grow up under her care (if all goes according to plan). He will not remember this transition or our family. What will stick, however, is the consistent love and care we provided and the secure attachment that goes with it. It is easy to take this for granted, as this should be a normal part of every child’s development. All too often it isn’t, I have learned, which is the crisis traditional foster care faces today.
My family and I can take comfort and pride in knowing that, despite the adjustments of coming into our home and leaving it, Sweet Baby Boy’s first year of life was filled with the love and care every child deserves. He is a happy, healthy, and thriving baby.