Equipped to Reunify

by Holly Burk

A bare apartment - empty walls, empty floors. And though it’s empty now, this is the apartment in which she will welcome her children home.

And so, Naveah sits on the floor of her bare apartment, looking around, envisioning all the memories that will be made here. The anticipation is enough to bring to her to her knees. She has put in the hard work, made the changes needed, gained skills, and now - in anxious anticipation - she awaits their return.

Save for the one-hour, weekly, supervised visits, there has been so much she has missed out on this year. No tucking her children into bed each night and waking up to their bright smiles. She has counted each night she laid her head down to sleep without her kids.

But now, she has the keys to this apartment. It is one of the final pieces shifting into place to move her and her children one step closer to reunification. Overnight visits have been approved and can begin as soon as the children have safe sleeping arrangements in this new apartment. She stares at the empty space wondering how to make it all work.

Beds. Bedding. The missing pieces to her children spending a weekend here. With her new employment, she is a step closer to independence and having her children with her. But it will take time to save up for the beds, bedding and car seats. She has put everything she has saved over these past months into the deposit and first month’s rent. Her support system is limited as she has spent the last year separating herself from those who were unhealthy relationships for her.

Stuff. A tangible need. Safe beds for her children to sleep in. Car seats for her children to be transported safely. Shouldn’t that be the easy part?

Thankfully, when she expressed her dismay to her caseworker that she was not confident she could have the beds in the apartment so quickly, her caseworker knew exactly where to make the referral.

Navaeh got the keys on Thursday morning. Her case worker referred her to Foster Village on Thursday afternoon. And by Friday mid-morning, we showed up on her doorstep with a crib, a toddler bed, a twin bed and all the bedding they needed. Each of her three children now had safe sleeping arrangements, and her Saturday visit would not be delayed. Where there had previously been bare floors, there were now beds to welcome them. There were also highchairs, dining booster seats, clothing, pajamas, sippy cups, bottles, diapers and wipes, and car seats.

This village of support had stepped in, bridged the gap, and met the tangible need with the belief that a mother should not be separated from her children for extra, unnecessary weeks. After all, it was not a safety concern keeping them apart but a lack of resources.

These requests for tangible items for reunifying families are happening all the time. When Foster Village receives a request through our online Request Form from a caseworker, a CASA, a licensed foster parent whose child is preparing for the child’s transition home, or the reunifying parent themselves, we are able to mobilize quickly. Within 24 hours we are able to reach out to the reunifying parent and invite them to come shop the resource center and pick out items for their children. Or, if needed, we will coordinate a delivery to their home/apartment.

None of this can happen without the generosity of a community filling gaps and stepping into hard spaces to ensure that caregivers have the support they need.