‘We met him in the parking lot. Our kid was leaving for 8 hours, going who knows where with God knows who.’: Foster parents celebrate reunification, ‘Every awkward moment was worth it’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.

“My name is Emma Yucus. I married my husband, Tony, on New Year’s Eve of 2016. Fast forward to the crazy year of 2020 – we became foster parents. When Tony and I got married, we immediately decided to leave it up to God’s timing for a baby. AKA sex was unprotected. A few months into our marriage, we decided to start actually trying. By spring of 2018, we still weren’t pregnant and started to look for answers. In December 2018, I found out I was pregnant. But then we rang in the New Year, our 2-year wedding anniversary miscarrying my first baby. I quickly got pregnant again in the spring but miscarried again.

We came to a crossroads of needing to take the next step. Should we go the route of fertility treatments or become parents a different way? We aren’t in any way opposed to fertility treatments! But, at the time, after hearing from friends who were foster parents, we decided that was the route we were going to take. We didn’t become foster parents to fill some need of having a baby we weren’t able to do naturally. We became foster parents because we had a safe home, love to give, and were ready to be parents. There are already kids out there that need a home. I would rather give them a home than force my body into doing something it doesn’t want to do.

In February 2020, we got our foster care license and said ‘yes’ to a 2-year-old girl who we’ve nicked named Boo. We actually met her a week before her second birthday. Boo was with another foster family before she was with us and we actually slowly transitioned her instead of removing her quickly again. It was a nice way to slowly transition into parenthood. 3 weeks after Boo transitioned to live with us full time, COVID hit and the world shut down.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

Tony works in a residential treatment center and he never stopped going into the office. So I was quarantined with a toddler as a brand new mom. Like it was for most people, this was such a hard season for me. Everything was brand new to me as a mom and now I was trying to work full-time at home with a toddler. Not to mention, the weather was TERRIBLE.

A lot of the moments were so hard. Toddlers are hard generally, but seeing trauma in such a little body is so sad, but also just creates more meltdowns. And honestly, Boo is such a good kid and I’m sure I blew so much out of proportion, but in those moments, I felt like I was drowning. What helped me through was to focus on all of the special extra time I was getting with her. I think a lot of people used the quarantined time to cherish time with family. This was even more true for us because we didn’t know how long we had with her in our home.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

When the world shut down, that means visitation with Boo’s biological parents stopped as well. The caseworker asked if we could send pictures every so often to pass along to the parents, which we gladly did. We learned during this time the bio mom was very minimally involved. Both parents were still struggling. And we honestly didn’t know how the case would go because they were making so little progress. The legal limit for foster kids to be in care in Ohio is 2 years and then a decision has to be made. Since she was in foster homes before she came to us, that meant December was the 2-year deadline.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

By June, there was still no timeline for in-person visits and Boo’s bio dad asked if we would do a video visit. Typically, his visits in person were every other Monday and bio mom was the opposite Monday. We did a video visit and I have never been so nervous. We had never met or spoken to her dad and now we had an hour on a video chat with him. Honestly, it went really well. There were moments where it was very awkward and uncomfortable. But we all agreed we love Boo and have a common interest and we would make it work for her. Because mom wasn’t involved, we told him we’d be happy to do video visits every Monday.

In August, in-person visits started again and we were happy Dad and Boo would get to see each other! And getting a 2-year-old to talk on a video chat for an hour every week was getting tough. Mom quickly lost visits. While dad was doing visits, he still wasn’t making a lot of progress on his case plan.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

September was a crazy month for us. We sold our house and bought a new one. We accepted a new placement of a 5-month-old baby everyone calls Bubba. Toward the end of September, we were told the county was going to be filing for permanent custody because Boo’s parents weren’t completing their case plans and we would be given the opportunity to adopt her. We were extremely excited. We fully support family reunification but were also so grateful to be given the opportunity for forever with her. We didn’t tell people because we didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

Less than a week later, we received a call from Boo’s caseworker saying Dad had taken a turn and not only was reunification the goal again but the next week, we would be starting unsupervised visits increasing from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours. I remember getting this call and just sitting outside my work building, crying. I couldn’t even get the words out to Tony. The whiplash of emotions was too much and it seemed like such an aggressive jump to send our baby unsupervised when just a week ago, the situation wasn’t safe to ever send her home.

After two unsupervised visits, which was the month of October since visits were still every other week, we were informed visits would increase to every week for 8 hours. Instead of dropping her off in the visitation center, we were to just meet Dad in the parking lot. In the visitation center, temperatures were taken to have a little safety for COVID. We obviously didn’t have a say in the visit schedule, but we also didn’t get a say in our concerns for COVID. Our kid was leaving for 8 hours going who knows where and seeing God knows who.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

After 3 weeks of 8-hour visits, we found out we were going to start overnight visits. This would mean dropping her off at 9 a.m. and picking her up at 4 p.m. the next day. The very first time doing an overnight, it was not just one overnight in a week. The schedule was… Friday from 9 a.m. to Saturday at 4 p.m., Monday from 9 a.m. to Tuesday at 4 p.m., and Thursday from 9 a.m. to Saturday at 4 p.m.

In the first week of overnight visits, there were four overnights and she even did two nights in a row. On top of this, that Thursday was Thanksgiving. We were DEVASTATED when we got the schedule and found out the first big holiday with her (we were still quarantined on Easter), she wouldn’t be with us. If it was hard for us, I cannot even imagine how hard it was for her. She must have been so confused!

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

At this point, we were crushed but accepting she was going to be going home. We were trying to prepare Dad as much as we could by sharing things she likes, giving him tips, and sending things with her to set them both up to succeed. Her first overnight, bio-dad actually video chatted with us so we could see Boo. She mostly just wanted to see Bubba. He knew it was hard and confusing for all of us and wanted to make sure we all still saw each other.

On this phone call, Dad shared with us he had every intention of keeping us involved in her life. We all love her and there’s no reason she can’t continue to see us, have sleepovers, and have a daddy at his house and a mommy and daddy at our house. We even got to the point of joking about who would get her during her teenage years! Looking back and reflecting on these moments, it’s so incredible that this happened and probably very rare.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

After the marathon of overnight visits, we did 3 weeks of one overnight a week. We got 10 days’ notice Boo would be going home on December 18th, 1 week before Christmas. Nothing can prepare you for your first kid moving back home. I believe this transition happened entirely too quickly and was extremely rushed. I think if it weren’t for her dad being so willing to include her, she would have really struggled more than she naturally did during the transition.

There are so many things we learned. This was our first placement so this was so new to us and we didn’t know much. Add in a pandemic and we were clueless. We thought there had to be a court date to determine she would go back home. So again, we were shocked to just get a text from a caseworker telling us a date. We also learned not to be so quick to trust when the caseworker says the goal will change, it actually will. Now, I do think the caseworker, knowing this was our first placement, should have been much more careful with his words and leading us on.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

During our last week with Boo, her dad gave up his scheduled visits so we could have the extra time with her. He also told us we could get her on Christmas Day. I can’t even being to express how special this was. He knew we planned on having her and didn’t want to take that away from us or her. His family did Christmas with her in the morning and then she came to our family’s for Christmas and the whole weekend.

We’ve continued to have a relationship with Boo and her dad. He will call me for quick advice or questions. He’ll text me pictures or fun updates. She’ll video chat me when she’s having a meltdown or misses us. Dad keeps a family picture of us in their living room for her.

Courtesy of Emma Yucus

We got invited to Boo’s third birthday party with bio dad’s family and friends. We got to bring our new foster placement of girls who are 6 and 7 for the girls to meet. Boo’s dad helped our new girls bowl. It was so incredible to see us all act as a family together with each other’s kids. There was nothing weird at this point. We all parented her and loved on her and celebrated her.

Our weekend visits have been farther apart because… life! And it’s still so early into her reunification. But I never would have imagined we would be here. We never thought we could or would have a friendship with Boo’s dad. That she would go home and we would still get to see her. I don’t think this is typical in foster care, and it wouldn’t have worked if Dad wasn’t willing to work with us and keep us involved. But even when it was hard, we were kind to him, tried to help as we could, and supported him. Every awkward and hard moment was so incredibly worth it to continue to be in Boo’s life.”

Lopez Davis

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emma Yucus from Colombus, OH. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more touching stories about foster care here:

‘You treat them like they’re yours!’ She said it as if it were a bad thing. I made the heartbreaking decision to get ‘too attached.’: Foster mom celebrates reunification, ‘Every moment of doubt was worth it’

‘We’re going to miss you. Will you visit us one day?’ It was time to take them home to their parents, for good. As I drove away, the tears came flooding.’: Single foster dad shares emotional reunification journey

‘They aren’t mine to keep.’ She can’t leave her husband. They’re just as scared as I am.’: Foster mom fights for reunification, ‘I want families to be whole again’

‘We can have one more. Only ONE.’ That’s all I needed to hear. We had 8 kids within the next month.’: Couple adopts four kids from foster care, ‘My heart was changed’

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