Sunshine* showed me a picture she had made with her parents at a visit. It was a leaf rubbing and on the bottom it said "Sunshine*, Mommy and Daddy"
She said, "I color with Mom and Dad. I have two Daddies and two Mommies"
It's been four months since I watched a two year old, quiet, docile, curly-haired blonde walk into the CPS office unaware of the events that would unfold before her.
She hardly said a word the first few days, the shock and confusion left her voiceless except for at bedtime when she would cry unless we laid down next to her while she fell asleep.
After 30 days with us she spent the next month with a family member who we were told would be getting guardianship of her and we may not actually see her again.
Of course, nothing goes as planned within this framework, there are too many moving parts as with any system, and as things would have it not only would she return to us but that plan of guardianship would fall through and we would have her indefinitely.
The "30-60 days maximum" became a no end in sight and we scrambled for childcare with my impending return of work and the school year. We made room adjustments, found more clothing and toys and shoes and adjusted upcoming plans for trips.
The quiet and docile little girl found her voice, and we began to see the effects of her trauma in full display. It got hard. Really really hard and our entire family has been living in this weird limbo ever since. Knowing this isn't forever but not knowing how long it will be has brought about new conversations and adjustments and a new mindset. Not all bad, just more work.
We've gotten better at parenting her unique needs, we've carved out once a month respite weekends and we've maximized the time with our three boys as much as possible. Things are possibly better, but possibly we are just getting used to this new normal.
She loves us dearly and we love her.
She had a little routine where she asks us our names (she knows them well) and we say them again and she says "I lub you" It's as if she's reassuring herself we are still here, we are still Mommy Krystle and Daddy Trevor and she loves us.
She knows all of our nighttime songs, and requests her favorites. She's learned to calm herself and apologize when she's done or said something unkind. She loves to help and folding towels is her favorite. She loves my parents and gets so excited when she sees them out the window. "Sloaney" is incredibly patient with her putting blankets on top and being bossed around.
She hates to be changed and will run from you nearly every time. She sleeps amazingly well even though she still hates to go to bed.
She will curl up into my lap and tell me she loves me and then tell herself that Mommy Krystle loves her and takes care of her.
No matter how hard this is, I will break in a million pieces when she leaves because I have been her Mommy. I have done the middle of the night rocking and feeding and clothing and caring for and you can't help but attach.
She has been a part of us and because I don't do things half way, she will remain a part of me forever.
I am desperate to see her family get this right and never be in this situation again. I pray daily for health and safety and reunification and new life for them together!
I am hopeful that the best will be done for this little girl long term. I am thankful for the people who understand this unique situation and offer helpful encouragement and I'm thankful for those who have no idea what we are going through and show up anyway.
She is not unique. There are hundreds of children like her in our area and yours. They need a safe place to get angry, to act out and mourn and heal while their family does their best to reunite with them.
Studies show that after every visit with a family member the child grieves after and he grief hey feel is as if they just experienced the death of their parent.
Every. Single. Time.
Those are massive emotions for anyone let alone a child. We are committed to walking her through those devastating moments, the confusing days and unknowns that lie ahead.
Because we love her, because she was not placed in our home accidentally. Because we took her in when it wasn't convenient and we will stay the course when it gets harder.
Because she is worth it a thousand times over. Because I have been loved in my hard moments- I will choose to love others in theirs.