For the first time in a long time, Cooper was afraid. A lifelong struggle with drug addiction had finally resulted in his 8 year-old daughter, Traci, being removed from his care and placed into a foster home for her safety. He knew he needed treatment or he'd risk losing his daughter forever, or even his own life. Recognizing that he’d hit rock bottom, Cooper committed himself fully to getting and staying clean. He had finally accepted the harsh reality that he’d only get to watch his daughter grow up and be a part of her life if he were sober and safe.
Cooper checked himself into a local in-patient rehabilitation center for a ninety-day residential care program. After three months, Cooper had successfully met his in-care rehab goals, and was released into an outpatient program to continue his treatment. Feeling more clear-headed and sure-footed, Cooper reached out to Social Services to get Traci out of foster care and begin planning for their future. But it wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. Cooper was told that in order to be reunified with his daughter, he would need to meet a lot of vital requirements to ensure he could provide Traci with safety and stability. For help with these requirements and other goals, Cooper was placed in a local program called Wraparound.
Wraparound is a collaborative program aimed at creating multi-agency teams to work in partnership with families, parents and/or youth to help them reach their goals--whether these goals include family reunification, creating a stronger family unit or even helping a youth stabilize their behaviors so they can remain in their current placement or transition to a lower level of care. In Cooper’s case, his Wraparound team would include his Social Services Social Worker, his FCNI’s Case Manager, Traci’s therapist and foster parents, Cooper’s sponsor, and other key support players he and Traci would choose. This team would then come alongside Cooper and Traci, helping them to identify their strengths, their needs and what goals they wanted to meet. The team’s first plan was to make sure that Traci received intensive therapeutic services while in foster care in order to heal, and that Cooper would get help securing safe housing and stable employment while maintaining his sobriety.
Before Wraparound, Cooper had only ever focused on his addiction--on how to hide it and feed it. But in a much clearer headspace, Cooper could focus more solely on Traci, and he became adamant about getting her back. His team started to worry about Cooper’s growing impatience for reunification. He wanted to rush through everything and skip important steps, and his pride made him reject offers of help. In response, his team remained patient and clear in the expectations, and they continued to connect him with community resources and support. But Cooper would only become angry at their suggestions, complaining that things were taking too long and that the team didn’t really want Traci back with him, that they weren’t really on his side. After repeated instances of this, Cooper's team explained to him that reunification was only possible if Cooper was willing to work with them, not against them. Wraparound is a partnership and a journey, his case manager stressed, and Cooper had to be a willing partner otherwise nothing was going to get better or change.
While Cooper understood what his team was saying, it took time for him to really commit himself to the team and lower his defenses. He started by recognizing that he could only be responsible for himself--which meant he needed to voice his needs and concerns during team meetings, he needed to participate in his Narcotics Anonymous meetings and in family therapy on a regular basis, and he needed to learn better communication and parenting skills. Cooper also started opening himself up to the Wraparound process, and the opportunities he was being offered to learn and grow so that he could become the father Traci deserved.
With help, Cooper was approved for affordable housing and secured an older two bedroom rental home. Donated funds helped him buy necessary furnishings, including a bedroom set for Traci. Cooper also enrolled in a local plumbing course which included job placement. Every obstacle he overcame, helped him believe more in the healing process and in his ability to not only complete the necessary steps towards reunification, but to gain the skills and insight he needs to really understand why every step is important. By feeling supported instead of cornered, Cooper could finally see how his partnership and participation was critical for the process to work.
The road to reunification isn’t ever a straight line. While Cooper and Traci steadily worked with their team, there were unexpected challenges that derailed their progress. Most notably was Cooper’s combative reaction when faced with disappointment, and how the trauma Traci experienced in her early childhood impacted her own development and progress in care. But the family and their team kept showing up, putting in the time and effort, and worked hard to remain consistent and optimistic. And 17 months after starting Wraparound, Traci and Cooper were able to reunify together in their new home. While no one is a perfect parent, Cooper’s clear head, improved skills, and fully committed heart are helping him now be fully present for Traci, and helping him provide her with the best childhood he can.