Often when people think of foster care, children’s homes, and residential care, the first thing that comes to mind is the separation of a child from their family of origin. While walking through that separation is a large part of what happens in the different programs at Epworth, for reasons of safety and best interest, there is also another side of care that we get to be a part of, reunification. Reunification happens when a child’s home is safe and stable for them to return home. It is often laced with big emotions, hope, and excitement. This past year, Epworth was able to witness an incredibly special reunification of father and son that will warm our hearts for many years to come.
For Andy, his world was turned upside down in the early 2010s when his mother tragically passed away. The years that followed her death were tumultuous and after a series of events, Andy was placed in foster care, then eventually at Epworth Children’s Home. During these years, he did not see or have contact with his father. Andy’s time at Epworth was incredibly beneficial, and he was able to receive care and counseling to help him work through the tragedy and heartbreak of the last nine years. However, Andy still greatly desired to see and know his father again and the hurt from not seeing him for the last nine years weighed heavily on him. Epworth, in partnership with the Department of Social Services, was able to find and reach out to Andy’s father. One sunny Thursday afternoon, Mr. Barry, Andy’s father, received a phone call asking if he would be willing to bring Andy home. Mr. Barry was shocked and speechless and had only one question for the person on the other end of the line, “Can I go get him right now?” The hope of being able to bring Andy home for Christmas was more than he could believe.
Shortly after Mr. Barry said yes to getting Andy, Epworth’s Case Manager Laurie was able to sit down with Andy and tell him about the new plan for reunification with his father. Andy had no words for Laurie, just tears of relief and hope. As soon as it was possible for the paperwork to be processed, Mr. Barry arrived at Epworth to pick up his son. The papers were signed, and a flurry of hugs and tears ensued. Andy’s grandmother was able to come as well and all she could say was prayers of thankfulness for the day. When the tears had slowed enough for Mr. Barry to speak – he took Andy’s face in his hands, looked him in the eyes, and simply said “You have been lost to me for nine years, but you will never be lost again.”
Although the road ahead is a long one, and Andy is still healing, his family is so grateful to have him back home. They are grateful to have the resources of Epworth and the Department of Social Services to ensure that Andy continues receiving the help that he needs. Andy has a better chance than ever to step into the light and lay aside the burdens he has been carrying, starting with being home for Christmas.