Dhestiny’s daughter Ava was placed in foster care for seven months. It was the worst time of her life. She wrote this letter to the foster parents who had her child in their home after they were successfully reunified. Today she reflects on her daughter’s time in foster care along with Ava’s foster mom, Kendal on #FosterFridayLive.
All names and photos have been shared with permission from both families post-reunification.
Navigating Relationships with Foster Parents
When Ava was originally placed in foster care it was really hard for Dhestiny. It was the worst time in her life. She remembers meeting Jon [Ava’s foster dad] at the first court date and recalls that he came up and introduced himself. She had previously heard that a lot of foster parents didn’t come to court so she was surprised. Jon said that Ava was smart and it seemed like she got a lot of one-on-one care so Dhestiny felt that it was a nice compliment. He gave her his phone number and they were able to start talking regularly. It was just getting to know each other in the beginning.
It was beneficial because I got to know the people that my kid was with instead of just not knowing. It’s better knowing.Dhestiny
For the foster family, Kendal says that it helped them understand why they were doing what they’re doing- fostering. They wanted Dhestiny to know they were a support for her.
It always felt good to be able to tell Ava that we had either talked to mom or we were going to talk to mom. We were able to reassure her that mom was there, we talked to mom, mom was there and doing well.Kendal
Benefits of Having a Relationship with Foster Parents
Getting to know Jon and Kendal made Dhestiny feel comfortable. She knew that Ava was safe and that meant the world. She could see that she was in good hands and was able to talk to her on the phone and through video chat.
I was able to talk to them and tell them how I was feeling. They were supportive of my feelings. Even when I had bad days, they were there for me. It was nice.Dhestiny
Dhestiny had heard some horror stories about foster care and foster parents. Not having a relationship with the foster parents could have caused a lot more worry about all the terrible things that could have happened. She obviously didn’t want that for her child.
This is supposed to be a time that they are protected while I get better. If something bad were to happen then I feel like it would be a worse situation. She would be traumatized for something totally different.Dhestiny
Ava’s foster parents agreed. Kendal said that Ava was very well behaved and never had issues. You hear that a lot- that foster children struggle. Well, imagine how hard it would be for us if we only got to see mom once a month and we worried about her. That worry can cause additional struggles.
It was always a benefit for Ava to talk to her at night. And Dhestiny did a really good job that even if she was having a hard day that Ava heard her be positive.Kendal
Family Bonds Can Support Successful Reunification
Dhestiny was able to go trick-or-treating with Ava and the foster family. They set up something special for Christmas where everyone was able to get together and do gifts. They kept in constant communication. Even if Dhestiny wasn’t able to talk to Ava one day, she was able to text Jon or Kendal to ask how she was doing.
She was also able to attend to a couple doctor’s appointments. That was kind of difficult because they end up last minute. But if they could work it out, she would come and participate.
The day Dhestiny officially reunified with Ava was one of the best days that they’ve had. Ava still talks about it. It was exciting and happy.
It was different than our normal schedule now. She’ll say, “I wish it was like when I first came home.” It’s just because that was an exciting time and now it’s gone back to normal. When she first came home, I played with her and gave her all my attention all day long. Now I have to go to work. She misses the time when she first came home because she got all my attention non-stop on her.Dhestiny
They still maintain a close relationship with Ava’s foster family- mostly for Ava, but Dhestiny says, she does still have a relationship with them as well. Communication isn’t as formal as it used to be. Ava will ask to call every once in while. She wanted to go to the lake so both she and Dhestiny went with the foster family for a mini-vacation. She occasionally spends the weekends with Jon and Kendal, but is always excited to go home.
They are part of her family now. They became family to her. She still talks about them very often and she loves Jon. She’s very attached to him.Dhestiny
Advice For Foster Families
It’s important to have some communication with the kid’s family. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with phone calls, I think it’s important to let the kid know that their mom is doing well. And let the mom know that the kids are doing well just so they both know that there’s still a relationship there. I think it was really important for Ava to know that I was doing okay. I know she asked all the time how I was doing. I think it is important for the foster parents to know how the mom is doing.Dhestiny
If both parties can have compassion and understanding for each other, it makes a difference. It means a lot to be treated with respect. Kendal says that as a foster parent, they love Dhestiny like their own. They had to respect her feelings with open-minds and open-hearts. Even when navigating the relationship was challenging, even when they were unsure of how it would end, it was worth it.
The relationship I built with Kendal and Jon was most special. Obviously being able to talk to Ava a bunch, take her trick-or-treating at Halloween was really special, but I think the most important thing is we still have that relationship. Ava doesn’t have to feel like she lost another family that she grew close to.Dhestiny
Advice for Birth Families
We all need a little bit of help sometimes. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt or at least respect- to be treated as people.
It feels like [reunification] is going to take forever. It feels like it is never ending and then once it happens, once you’re reunified, you realize it wasn’t that long. Of course when you aren’t with your kid it feels like the world is ending and you are never going to be reunified, but once you get reunified it doesn’t feel like it was that long. We still have a strong relationship. She still feels like the child I had.Dhestiny
Mom’s Matter is an initiative of Fostering Great Ideas, the parent organization of Care2Foster. For moms whose children are placed in foster care, Mom’s Matter offers a free, peer support group. A trained facilitator guides the discussion and encourages each participant to break down treatment plan goals into smaller tasks. All moms want their children back. “Moms Matter” helps them on their journey.