Families entering the child welfare system often have no network of support around them, whether that's family, healthy friendships or other relationships. A web of support is crucial to being able to reunify and heal families, and ensure their long-term stability.
Boys Town New England Care Coordination Services Consultant Myrsha Frejuste's recent case story of family reunification is all about that web of support. Adriana, the mother in the case, suffered domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend, and her little girl Esperanza entered the system. Adriana was pregnant at the time of the assault, with injuries so severe she ended up in the hospital. Her child's father was brought up on charges and incarcerated. Adriana had no one she could go to for support. She was pregnant and homeless, and it seemed like she wouldn't be able to put her life back together.
Wary of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), Boys Town New England became that crucial support system for Adriana. Although Adriana had secured temporary housing through a domestic violence shelter, which allowed her bonding time with her newborn son, Adrian, Boys Town linked Adriana to her own apartment with Crossroads for two years. With a stable place to live she could now focus on Adrian, her recovery and working through the requirements she needed to complete as part of her DCYF case with Esperanza.
“Adriana completed domestic violence counseling and Boys Town's Common Sense Parenting®," said Frejuste. “Upon completion of Common Sense Parenting, I witnessed Adriana's growth in confidence of her own parenting skills. She became comfortable in using her voice to advocate for herself and her children."
Family reunification often involves Boys Town providing a lot of support for parents. The most important work we do throughout these cases is to ensure that everything is going to be safe and in the child's best interest. Boys Town's Director of Community Support Services, Olivia Behrens, completed a risk screening and worked on safety planning in Adriana's new home. She also put together a plan of who Adriana could contact should she feel anxious or overwhelmed. Behrens stated, “When working with families, it is important to ensure we are working on reunification throughout services, not just at the end. Adriana was able to commit to her safety and the safety of her children time and time again while working with us. When it was time for the kids to come home, she was prepared to keep herself and her children safe."
Frejuste worked with Adriana on visualizing what life would look like once reunification with Esperanza occurred. They worked on a weekly schedule to include childcare, staying on top of feedings and time for Adriana to de-stress.
“Adriana was thoroughly engaged in services, and always so appreciative," said Frejuste. “One thing I learned about this case is that, when given the right support and resources, a person can come out of a dark time much stronger."
Adriana managed to get housing within a few months, but it took nearly a year of meetings, programs and court dates before family reunification occurred. Whether it's a web of support or a major life change, finding ways to help families heal and stay together is a huge part of our work at Boys Town New England.