My first introduction to Ashley was through her daughter when a friend of mine welcomed this sweet girl into their home through foster care. Several Month’s later I learned that the family had gone through what we call in the foster care world “reunification” they were back together and thriving. I wanted to learn from Ashley and her experience, and when I reached out to her she was extremely willing to share. What I heard from Ashley in that first conversation broke my heart and opened my eyes further to what kids and families go through when involved in foster care. I asked Ashley if she would share a little bit of her story with all of you.
Tell us a little about yourself:
— I am a single parent of 4 children, that is highly driven to my children’s success in life; which I am motivated by their existence. With no immediate family, I am their Mom, Dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt and everything in between for them they may need. I am driven to be a great role model for my kiddos. I have failed, and with that failure, I have WON; by learning from mistakes so they will never happen again.
What was it like when your kids were removed from your care?
— UGH, it’s not explainable. Even the words I say do not give you a FULL understanding of having your kids removed from your care can feel like; my words are only a tip of it. It was as if someone was removing my heart from my body, with no anaesthesia. It felt like someone was suffocating me and I couldn’t even fight back.
What was the hardest part about being separated from your kids?
— When I realized I didn’t know where my kids were or what they were doing. I kept thinking to myself, “are they ok?”, “did they eat?”, “did they get a hug good night?”, “did somebody pray with them and let them it was going to be alright?”. A lot of the times, I couldn’t even breathe. We do everything together, so not being able to be near them was tearing our worlds apart.
— Even more so, once I did get to hear from my kids, hearing their voice of fear. They did not know what was going on, much even less when they were coming home. It is very hard to explain to your kids ” it’s gonna be alright” when you do not what they are facing at the foster placements or even an answer to their questions of “what’s gonna happen next?” They are confused, scared, lost and lack trust with everyone. How do you hold back from crying when you finally get to hear their voice OR give them a hug for the first time since separation? How do you tell them to not be worried, when our world is flipped upside down?
— Overall, I would say the hardest part was being strong for all of us when my strength was gone.
What helped you the most during that time?
— My faith in the higher power. I knew there was a right way to get through this & I was determined to figure it out. I felt I would fail my kids if I didn’t. Not only praying for strength but guidance & wisdom on how to handle the situations at hand. Continued prayers with my kids, brought our hearts together. When they heard me pray they could relate, we all were going through similar emotions.
What would’ve been helpful to you?
— Support and knowing what was going on or even the next steps. If you never experienced this before, the whole time its like you are walking in a very dark room and you can see nothing in front of you. You can’t even see your hands right in front of your eyes. I wish there was someone that could explain what the process looks like. I would not be at complete ease, but at least I would have seen a spark of light in such a dark place.
Tell us about the day that you and your kids were reunified.
— It was like the missing piece of the puzzle. During supervised visits, no matter how much time we had together, we knew we would have to leave each other again. The night before we were reunified, I stayed up all night, making it perfect for them. All of their “favorite” things to eat and do were ready for them to enjoy. We partied until we couldn’t anymore. We sat together going through boxes of items I collected after birth (baby blankies, first books, baby pictures, arts they crafted for me when they were toddlers & many love letters they wrote me throughout the years). We talked about goals we wanted to accomplish now that we were back together. We talked about realizing the strength we had, even when we didn’t think we had any. We hugged each other until we fell asleep.