People begin their foster care journeys in all different ways. Some have always known that they want to be a foster parent – they feel a call to care for the kids. Some are called upon to help out a family member who needs someone to care for her child while she tries to get her life back on track. Others are moved by an article in the newspaper or a movie depicting a child in need of a home. Some just love raising children and the joy children bring into their lives. Still others experience painful infertility issues and address their longing for children by fostering or adopting. And then there are others whose journeys begin in really unique ways…
Seven years ago two month old Khalid and his mother were homeless. Khalid’s mother tried really hard to provide a stable life for her little family but finding herself unemployed and destitute she entered a New Haven homeless shelter where she met Ashley, the shelter’s Child Development Specialist. Blonde haired, green eyed Ashley, a bubbly 20 year old with a love of children and a positive, upbeat attitude, made Khalid’s mom feel hopeful about the future. Khalid’s mom had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse but she always cleaned herself up during her pregnancies, giving birth four times to healthy children. Khalid was the fourth child, the only one she retained custody of and she took really good care of him.
While at the shelter Khalid’s mom eventually found a job but the shifts she was offered were on weekends when there was no childcare available at the shelter. Ashley kindly stepped in and offered to bring Khalid home with her and care for him along with her 3 year old son, Jaycob, every weekend. Khalid’s mom, having grown to trust Ashley, jumped at the chance and the bond between the two women grew even stronger. This arrangement continued for five months during which time Ashley and the boys all bonded. Still, in her heart, Ashley rooted for Khalid’s mom to do well and leave the shelter for her own place. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Her addictions proved too strong to overcome. Khalid spent more and more time with Ashley and Jaycob and less time with his mom.
When Khalid was ten months old his mom was asked to leave the shelter for using illegal substances and drinking and Khalid was turned over to the custody of DCF. Ashley was devastated. Khalid was in foster care and she could not see him. Casey Dalton, Khalid’s social worker asked Khalid’s mother if there was anyone who could care for Khalid. His mother did not hesitate, she immediately asked for Khalid to be brought to Ashley. And so began the seven month journey for Ashley, herself a single mom, now 21, to receive a special study license.
Ashley describes those seven months waiting for the licensing to be finalized as “torture.” “I was frustrated by the time it took for the license to be issued because I really missed Khalid. I did get to speak with the foster mother but I just wanted to see him and hold him and bring him home.” Both Khalid’s mom and I just really wanted him back here with me where we knew he belonged. Casey Dalton, his worker, did everything she could to speed up the process but the seven months seemed like forever. I’m sure I drove her crazy because I called her all the time to check on the progress of my case but I know she understood that I was simply concerned about Khalid.”
Even before Khalid was placed in her home DCF filed the Termination of Parental Rights with family court. Ashley continued to encourage Khalid’s mom to fulfill her contract with DCF. She regularly sent her notes and cards because she felt so strongly that Khalid’s mom needed someone to believe in her. Nothing, however, halted her downward slide. Khalid’s mom continued to visit sporadically for the next 6 months, having readily consented to an Open Adoption. She and Ashley agreed that Ashley should adopt Khalid and that mom could continue to call regularly and see Khalid at least once a year.
Khalid’s adoption was finalized in May 2005. And although Ashley never heard from his mom again, she still remains hopeful that eventually she will pick up the phone and Khalid’s mom will be on the other end. She has even gone so far as to keep her old phone number so that if mom decides to call she will be able to reach Ashley.
Today, Khalid is a bright, handsome seven year old boy. He has no memory of his birthmom although he does ask questions about her from time to time. He and Jaycob are inseparable. And they love the little baby girl living in their home now. Ashley, still a single mom, decided to become a DCF licensed foster family for infants last year – and the boys are very excited about it. Their faces light up when they talk about their foster sister. “I am so proud of the baby’s mom,” says Jaycob, in response to his mother’s comment that mom is doing better. Khalid joyfully declares that he “loves to sing ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’ to her when she fusses” during car trips. Both boys have a keen understanding, fostered by Ashley, that this baby will eventually leave their home. And they seem to be okay with that. In fact, they appear to be rooting for the baby’s mom to do well enough to bring her daughter home.
And isn’t that what the very best foster care is all about?
-written by Deb Kelleher for Annie C Courtney Foundation. All rights reserved.