You know how they say that life is like a circle? Everything that goes around, comes around? I’ve heard that too. Sometimes it seems like life is more like a parallelogram or even a trapezoid, but sometimes, life can be a perfectly round circle, which ends at the beginning!
I started my career in child welfare as a visitation and family support worker. I was new and green and out to help the world one family at a time. I prided myself on knowing every community connection possible. I was the queen of community resources! “You need diapers? Check this place out! Free Diaper Fridays.” “You need some fans, gas, and food? YES, YES, YES – I can help!”
One of the first families I worked with was a single mom with four boys. The family was living together when the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was referred to investigate the boys’ safety and the resources needed to help the mom supervise, care for and provide for her children. I was assigned as the family’s support worker and my job was to ensure the children were safe in the home, help mom gain employment and visit regularly with the family to ensure that mom was making good choices. Since mom didn’t have a car and needed to stay home in the mornings to get the older boys on the school bus, I helped transport the two youngest boys, John and Joe, to and from daycare every day.
I would buckle the boys, aged two and under, into their car seats, make sure they had a morning snack and off we would go! Along the drive to daycare, I would sing and tell the boys stories. Their favorite thing to do was listen to my CDs. At that time, I didn’t have any children’s music, so we listened to the Greatest Hits of the 50’s. John and Joe always requested to hear “the birdie song” which was actually “Rockin’ Robin” by Bobby Day. They LOVED that song! They would start signing, then I would start singing and it became such a fun moment during those morning drives.
In the summer, we would sing with the windows down so that everyone could hear us, and in the winter, we clapped along to the music with our mittens on. Needless to say, it was my favorite way to start and end my day. We were able to form a close bond due to those car rides. After dropping the boys off at daycare, I helped the mom search for jobs, look for a safe new place to live, register for domestic violence classes and work through all the things that needed to be done in order to keep her children safe and remain in her care.
After six months of working with this family, the mom was still not meeting the requirements set by the state to keep her children safe. A court decision was made to remove the boys from the home and place them in foster care. My time working with the family came to an end. John and Joe went to live with a safe, caring foster family and a foster care specialist became their new worker. My days were instantly quieter, no more singing “Rockin’ Robin” for a long time. I missed the boys, but I knew that they were in a good place and maybe, just maybe I would see them again.
Throughout my career, I knew I wanted to keep helping children and families. I started working as a Foster Care Specialist with KVC Nebraska and went from working with biological families to supporting foster homes and youth. A couple of months into my new position, I found out that John and Joe were being placed in a foster home that I was working with! I was so excited to see them again and I wondered if they would remember me and our many trips to and from daycare singing “the birdie song.”
When I showed up at the foster home, I didn’t immediately recognize the boys. They were both so much older, taller and quieter than I remembered. I asked them, “Do you remember me? When you lived with your mom, I would take you to daycare.” They looked confused and somewhat sad. I tried asking, “Remember, I used to play “Rockin’ Robin” on the way to daycare?” I recall seeing a small flicker of recognition or remembrance in their faces, or maybe I was just hoping they would remember.
I learned later that the mother’s rights had been terminated by the courts and all four children would now need help finding forever families. The oldest brother went to a foster home in Lincoln with Christian Heritage, the second oldest brother needed additional support and began living with an Extended Family Home, while John and Joe had both lived in a foster home together. John and Joe moved several times and were trying to find the right foster family that could meet their needs. It made my heart sad to know that they had been through some rough times, but I was also hopeful that KVC could help find a safe, permanent, forever home for these boys.
After a few more changes in foster homes, the boys went to live with another foster family that I was helping. Again, I was able to spend time with them and continue to build on our relationship. I got to know them all over again during the drives to appointments. On those rides, I told them stories about daycare, their mom and brothers, and about singing “Rockin’ Robin.” I told them these stories over and over again.
Sometimes they would ask questions and sometimes they would just listen, soaking up every word of their own history. I felt as if I just had to tell them these little stories because they probably don’t get to hear about when they were all together very often. My own mother would tell me funny stories about when I was little and I loved hearing all the silly and sentimental stories. It made me feel as though I was a part of something, and I felt loved and hopeful. I wanted these boys to know that they were loved by many; that they had a past and they belonged.
On August 1, the youngest brother Joe found his forever family and was adopted. I attended the finalization and cried tears of happiness the entire time. His three brothers are still in foster care waiting to be adopted, but I am hopeful that they too will find their forever family someday soon. All of the boys still share a close bond and even meet on the weekends for sibling visits.
Life is really like a circle and I was so proud to work with this family to help these boys find their next beginning.
In every community, there are families experiencing crisis just like John, Joe and their brothers experienced. They need caring adults who can provide love, support and build their resilience. Consider becoming a foster parent or adopt to help children and teens just like these.