At WAYS for Life, we hold dear the concept of wraparound services, and one remarkable story illustrates the profound impact they can have. It's the story of a young mother whose life took a pivotal turn when her infant son was taken from her at just five months old. In the face of heart-wrenching separation, she summoned unwavering determination to regain custody of her beloved child. Furthermore, when she gave birth to a baby girl, a similar heartache occurred when her newborn was abruptly separated from her in the hospital.
To achieve this, she followed the guidance of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), making the necessary changes in her living situation. She diligently completed the required parenting classes and followed their case plan which included working with a multi-disciplinary team in Brevard County's Early Childhood Court. Despite her unwavering dedication, time continued to slip away, and her son remained out of her reach.
The desire to reunite with her child burned within her, driving her to go above and beyond the requirements set by DCF. She enrolled in additional parenting classes, including becoming a part of the Every Mother's Advocate (EMA) Program at WAYS for Life. She first learned about EMA while attending WAYS for Life's GED program, which she committed to even though it required her to borrow a vehicle and make a 45-minute drive each time.
As her educational journey continued, life took another turn, as she found herself expecting another child. As her due date approached, discussions of potentially taking her newborn arose during conversations with her caseworker. The mere thought of losing her new baby caused her such distress that she ended up in the hospital with an anxiety attack. It had now been a grueling 18 months since her son was taken from her.
During this challenging time, the EMA Coordinator and GED instructor at WAYS for Life remained by her side, offering their support and reminding her to reach out if she needed anything. This support would prove crucial in the difficult days to come.
At a later court hearing, DCF explained that they lacked the staff to facilitate visitation days for the mother and her son. It was at this point that a WAYS case manager, attending the hearing to support the mother, suggested to the judge that the EMA Coordinator could conduct the visits at the WAYS office. The judge approved the proposal, and for 7 weeks, the EMA Coordinator dedicated four hours a week to supervised visitations between the mother and her son.
Throughout this entire process, the mother continued to make the 45-minute drive to be with her son, demonstrating her commitment to reunification.
Finally, the day arrived when the mother passed her last school test and obtained her GED. THE NEXT DAY, she gave birth to her new baby. Sadly, on the day of her discharge from the hospital, they took the newborn from her arms, citing the existence of another open case as the reason.
Shelter hearings were convened for the newborn, and WAYS' Executive Director, GED Instructor, EMA Coordinator, therapist from Peace Club, the father's and mother's family, all showed up to provide support. However, the judge did not grant custody right away, and the mother was separated from her newborn baby for 7 irreplaceable, first days of her life. After a second hearing she finally received custody of her precious, baby girl.
Finally, after enduring countless challenges, in her pursuit of a brighter future for her family, the day we had all been waiting for arrived. The excruciatingly long 21 month wait had finally come to an end and the judge granted this resilient mother the rights to her son. The momentous decision marked the long-awaited reunion of this mother and her children under one loving and supportive roof.
This story serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of perseverance, dedication, and the profound impact of a supportive community. At WAYS for Life, we remain committed to standing by families as they navigate the path toward reunification, offering our support every step of the way. The journey might be filled with twists and turns, but together, we can overcome any obstacle, ensuring that every family gets the chance to create a brighter future filled with love, togetherness, and boundless opportunities. This story reminds us that it truly takes a village to make a difference in the lives of families, and we stand by our mission to provide that vital support every step of the way.