This story was shared by Teri DeVoe, CarePortal Field Training Specialist:
Several years ago, I had the role of monitoring visits between parents and children involved in the child welfare system who were working towards reunification. It was during this time that I met a dad and his nearly teenage son Caleb*. Dad had been incarcerated for about six years, and a judge had terminated his parental rights. Mom was dealing with challenges of her own, which led to Caleb and his siblings being removed from her care and placed in separate foster homes.
While Caleb was living with a foster family, his dad completed serving his time and was released from jail. Dad secured himself temporary housing and a support system at a halfway house as he worked through his case plan to stay sober and reintegrate back into society. One day, dad contacted the child welfare agency to inquire about Caleb. He wanted to know how his son was doing and left his contact information with the case worker to see if Caleb would be open to reconnecting.
Visits with mom were not going well, and while dad’s parental rights had been terminated, the case worker saw this as an opportunity to try something new. Caleb was told about his dad reaching out, and the decision to respond was left entirely up to him. Caleb decided he was open to visiting with his dad and seeing what would happen.
The case worker arranged for their first visit to take place at the agency, and I was brought in to monitor their interaction. Dad was very excited and so kind to Caleb. He listened intently when his son talked and was curious to learn all about him and about the things he liked. At the next visit, dad showed up with games and fun things he thought Caleb would enjoy. Eventually, visit times got longer and progressed to offsite and unsupervised. Dad was so great about helping Caleb think about what he wanted to do when he got older and being open to feedback on his parenting style.
After several weeks of visits going well, Caleb’s foster family received sad news. The foster dad had been diagnosed with cancer, and the family decided they needed to end their fostering journey. That meant Caleb needed a new home and a family to care for him. It was also around this time that Caleb’s dad had moved into a home that his boss, a contractor, allowed him to live in while he remodeled it. A lot of important discussion occurred around the possibility of Caleb going to live with his dad, but there was a big problem to resolve before that could happen.
Dad’s house was completely empty and would need to be furnished in order for Caleb to live there. Securing furniture, appliances, and more would be an incredible task, so the case worker submitted a request in CarePortal to rally help from local churches and the surrounding community. Numerous churches from all over Fairfield County responded and quickly gathered beds, dressers, a couch, fridge, stove, dishes, and more to fill dad’s entire house! So much had been given that dad needed help organizing everything, and the outpour of generosity was beyond anything that he could have ever imagined.
Caleb was able to move in with dad, and I was proud to deliver a crockpot of food to the family and join the numerous volunteers in praying together over them. This was such a beautiful example of the church and so many caring people coming together to give a dad a second chance and connect Caleb with family when it was needed the most.
*Names have been changed
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