Two moms sit in different parts of the courtroom, in different areas of the agency, in different corners of the city. They have more in common than they realize, but for now, their experiences seem quite different.
While foster mama works to understand the two children who have arrived in the middle of the night, mama is home, aiming to understand what she needs to do to be reunited with the children she loves.
Mama knows a thing or two about her children. And while she’s definitely made some mistakes, and life has thrown her some curveballs, she’s also overcome so much already. Couldn’t they see she was trying to provide for her kids? That’s why she was working late hours and trusting the kids could handle finding food in the pantry and staying inside with the door locked until she got home to tuck them into bed. She knew she shouldn’t have left them alone, but she felt like she had no other choice. She remembered when she went into foster care as a little girl because her mom wasn’t working. She promised herself she would always have a job, even if the hours were difficult to manage with a boss who kept switching up the schedule. She had to be able to pay the rent in the apartment they finally found after she left her boyfriend who turned out to be not much help at all.
Foster mama looks at the children she has just tucked in for the night in their brand new beds. She feels overwhelmed by all she does not know. She wonders what their favorite breakfast foods are. She really wants to make them something they’ll love. Maybe they have a favorite movie that could bring them a little normalcy and comfort when they wake up in a stranger’s home. It was so difficult to get the youngest one to fall asleep when all she wanted was her mama to pat her back and sing her their special song. Foster mama doesn’t know the song and baby girl couldn’t remember the words, so foster mama fumbled through a mashup of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a lullaby from her own childhood. Unsatisfied, but exhausted, the sweet girl finally fell asleep. Foster mama really wants the morning to go well, but knows she’ll have to just wing it and hope it’s enough.
The world of foster care can be tough for everyone involved — parents, foster parents, and especially the children. When families are separated, even for the safety of the children, it’s traumatic. And while the goal of foster care is almost always for the kids to return home once things are safe, there are still so many obstacles for families to overcome along the way.
What if things could be different? What if instead of just a system, families had a village of relational support as they worked hard to care for and reunite with their children? What if parents and foster parents, through intentional moments of connection and care, could make their way toward one another, tip-toeing across that invisible line that often divides?
We believe this can happen, because we’ve seen it. Though it can feel so difficult, the adults who love these children can find ways to unite rather than divide.
Sometimes, two mamas connect while they wait for court or before a visit. Foster mama sees the girl’s face light up when mama comes into the room, and mama notices her son give foster mama a big hug before the visit begins. Two kids. Two families. Two homes. It’s a lot to process for everyone, but it’s clear the kids are right in the middle of it all.
And when those moments happen, the two mamas on different sides of the courtroom, agency, or city might begin to notice their similarities more than their differences. As they wait for court to begin, foster mama asks mama what her daughter’s favorite food is, because she’s missing a little of home. Mama asks how her son’s grades are, knowing he was having a hard time in math. Foster mama pulls out her phone and shows mama the most recent photo of the two children. There they are, her son and daughter, sitting together at the breakfast table, making cards for mama they’ll bring to their next weekly visit.
“They miss you,” foster mama says as she reaches into her bag. “And we’re rooting for you. We’ll keep them safe while you do what you need to do to get them back. I printed a few photos for you if you’d like them.”
Mama is taken aback. This isn’t what she expected. When she’d heard about CPS, she’d always heard that kids never come home, and she felt like things were so stacked against her. Now this foster mama seems to be saying she’s on her side. It feels a little too good to be true, but she really could use some support. She’s done it alone for way too long.
Could there be another way?
What if parents had support along the way as they worked to become safe and stable so their kids could return home?
What if foster parents could advocate for the whole family, serving as resources, not replacements, for parents?
What if children could be continually cared for and loved well by all of the adults who want to stick with them and see them thrive?
Partners in Permanency is designed with these goals in mind. We want to help families provide safe, stable permanency for kids who come into foster care by creating ways for foster parents and parents to work together as partners in the process.
Our team of professionals assists families as they learn to partner with one another. We offer training on creating healthy communication patterns, setting clear boundaries, and working toward their shared goal — healthy, stable, safe permanency for the children they love. We help parents navigate community resources, and offer guided financial support for critical needs and job security, ensuring a safe and stable environment for the children.
As Dr. William C. Bell, President & CEO of Casey Family Programs says, “The safety and well-being of children cannot be seen as separate from the safety and well-being of their families.”
And we totally agree.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Partners in Permanency initiative, we’d love to chat with you. Check out our one-page overview here or contact Christina (firstname.lastname@example.org) to talk about how your family can be part of this one-of-a-kind program.