It’s an act of coming together, a uniting, a union or a homecoming. Everything from the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, which brought about the unity of East Germany and West Germany, to the heartwarming stories we see on TV about people searching for and finding long-lost family members.
Yet to a foster parent, reunification is not the tearing down of a wall or the happy celebratory reunion after years of searching. It is a difficult day that doesn’t feel much like a celebration at all.
It is the reason so many people tell you that they could never foster, saying something along the lines of, “I just could not give them back.”
This past November our family went through the reunification process. On this day, the child leaving was the biological brother of our adopted daughter. We had been a family for 1½ years and now it was time to say goodbye. Since that day, I have wanted to find a way to write about reunification, a process that is the most challenging event in a foster family’s life. It has taken a little time to heal and process, but I think I have found the message.
“Look through different eyes!”
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Maybe the plan here all along was an opportunity for a mom to grow up, heal, do the right thing and get her son back. It wasn’t about us adopting Lucy’s brother or expanding our family. It may have been a chance for redemption on the part of a mom who had already lost a child to the system.
You ultimately have to be OK with what you cannot change, because there is still so much you can change. Our family chooses to look at this last year and a half as an amazing blessing that allowed Lucy to know and love her brother. We are thankful to have been able to celebrate a 1st and 2nd birthday together, and to break bread at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and many family celebrations. Our home is filled with photos of those events, and our hearts will hold on to the memories forever!
We realize and accept a fundamental truth that reunification can contribute positively to our life or we can allow it to contaminate it negatively. As we move forward, we hold tightly to the positive. We will not passively allow the world to assign us the roles of victims who ask, “Why did we only get a year and a half?” “Why couldn’t we adopt him?” “Why did we have to go through this pain?” Instead, in the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” The message is simple: “Do.” Not “do” if you can get the outcome you want. Not “do” if it’s easy or pain-free. To me, that quote encompasses all that fostering and reunification is about. That is what my eyes will remain focused on.
Difficult events happen throughout our lives. The team you didn’t make, the accident that happened, the job you lost or the child who left. Everything shapes us and, if we choose, makes us stronger and wiser. I cannot control all the difficult events, but I can control how I react, how I see them and how I move forward after them.