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A Mother’s Triumph: Aby and Ashton’s Story of Reunification After Foster Care

family reunification after foster care

Ashton spent four years in foster care after being removed from his mother’s care. His mother, Aby, had struggled with addiction since she was 18 years old and never felt like she could ask for help. But today, mom and son are reunified after foster care and living a life of hope, healing and happiness together.

June is National Family Reunification Month. Reunification, or reunion between a child and their birth family, is the ultimate goal of foster care. Read this remarkable reunification story of a mother back together with her son after four years of separation.

Join the KVC team as a case manager and help families reunite after foster care. We’re hiring in Topeka, Lawrence, Olathe and Hiawatha!

How It Started

Aby and Ashton reunified after 4 years in Kansas foster care

Aby and her son Ashton

In December 2017, Aby’s life took a tumultuous turn as she grappled with addiction, eventually leading to the involvement of Child Protective Services. To ensure Ashton’s safety, a court made the decision to place him in foster care. This marked the beginning of Aby and Ashton’s journey with KVC Kansas, the nonprofit foster care case management provider for their area. KVC quickly stepped in, connecting Ashton and Aby with a caring foster family while Aby began her journey to recovery.

“At the time, I wasn’t really trying to get better,” Aby recalls. “I had good intentions, but I was deep in my addiction.” Aby tried a few “band-aid solutions,” she says, for her addiction. But nothing was sustainable enough for her to find lasting recovery.

Aby’s relationship with KVC was difficult in the beginning, she recalls. She worked with several KVC case workers who tried to help. “But I now see that I wasn’t ready to accept that I needed help,” Aby reflects. “It was a denial thing. You’re in your head, and you think that everything about you is fine and the problems are with everybody else. You think, ‘It’s not me, it’s everybody else and I’m not as bad as I could be.’ Nobody wants to be told what they’re doing wrong, but it’s something that all of us need to do. All of us need to grow.”

Aby’s Moment of Transformation

For two years, Aby had visits with Ashton but no custody. “It was a really isolating, dark place to be in,” she remembers. Aby hit rock bottom when she went to jail for a few DUIs. As a result, she went a year without being able to see Ashton and was literally on the brink of having her parental rights terminated while in jail. This was the moment when everything changed for Aby.

“I was absolutely broken,” Aby recalls. “I hated who I was and I hated who I became and I hated that I was about to get my son taken away for good.”

The next morning, right when Aby fully expected to have her rights taken away, she was miraculously given another chance by the judge. She finished her jail sentence and truly started working with KVC toward reunification.

The Journey to Reunification 

After her release from jail, Aby moved into a women’s and children’s Oxford House and gradually began getting more visits with Ashton again. Over time, she was permitted to have Ashton stay with her for short periods.

Aby worked closely with her KVC caseworker Dalton, who she and Ashton both loved. “He gave me so much good feedback and was genuinely trying to help me get Ashton back,” Aby reflects. 

“It all started falling into place when I surrendered my will and I surrendered my control,” Aby says of her recovery. Once Aby felt comfortable in her own sobriety, she moved into her mom’s house to begin preparing to safely reunify with Ashton. She worked hard to get his room ready with an adventure theme, inspired by their shared love of the outdoors. And after four long, heartbreaking years, Aby was finally able to bring her son home.

Foster Parents’ Role in Reunification

While the goal was always to get Ashton reunified with Aby, he spent a lot of time in foster care before then. His final foster parents, Darren and Annie, became family to him. Even through the sometimes complex dynamics of foster parents and biological parents, Aby began to grow close with them as well. They remain close to this day. “They love Ashton as their own and they stepped up in a lot of ways that I couldn’t at the time,” shares Aby. 

While Aby didn’t always have positive experiences with the foster families caring for Ashton, she is so grateful for every person who is willing to take on that role in her child’s life. Since reunifying with Ashton, she has asked his foster parents what he was like while in their care. Aby also enjoys paying it forward, talking with other families at her church who are considering becoming foster parents, and encouraging them in their foster care journeys. Her advice to foster parents is this: “Be very patient. Those kids are going through so much,” she says.

Aby, a single mom whose story of reunification after foster care will inspire many.

Aby

“We have big emotions as adults that sometimes we can’t even handle,” Aby says. “Think about that child who is having to deal with so much being separated from their parents. You have to have patience.

Ashton’s foster parents’ patience paid off as they were not only able to help him reconnect with his mom but they also remain in his and Aby’s lives to this day. While staying in each other’s lives isn’t always possible or ideal in reunification, it can create a beautiful opportunity for the child to have an even bigger network of love and support.

“I think fostering is absolutely amazing,” Aby said. “Foster parents get to be that stepping stone, and they get to love and support that biological parent and love and support that child until they get to be with their parents.”

Reunification After Foster Care: A New, Hopeful Adventure

family reunification after foster care

Aby and Ashton on a hike

Two years later, Ashton and Aby are enjoying their new future together. Ashton is now nine years old and has grown a lot since they first reunited after foster care. Aby said that it took her some time to learn how best to be his parent but she works hard every day to stay sober and be the best mom she can be. To that end, she goes to parenting classes, attends meetings almost every day and has a sponsor. Aby and Ashton have also done a lot of therapy together, which Aby says can be transformational for reunified families.

Beyond therapy and support services with KVC, Ashton and Aby spend as much time as they can outdoors, even when it’s raining! They share a love of hiking and soccer, and Ashton has fallen in love with fishing. “I don’t like fishing, but I do go fishing,” Aby laughs, wanting to do the things her son loves even if they’re not her favorite. They also are very deeply involved in their church community, and Aby credits her faith for her recovery and reunification.

Reunification Services: Hope for Parents with a Child in Foster Care

It took four years for Aby and Ashton to reach a point of safe reunification after foster care. If you are in a situation like Aby was, she has a message: You are not beyond hope! “It’s going to be hard, but it is so worth it,” she says. “You always have a chance to fix things and get better.”

Learn more about KVC’s foster care case management and family reunification services.

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