Guest post by Dave Farguharson, Staff Member of Eckerd Community Alternatives | Pasco & Pinellas. In part two in this two part story we learn how the Chutes work with the biological parents of their foster children, and how they came to adopt their son Liam.
Liam was 6 days old when he was placed with Elizabeth Chute and her husband Chris, both licensed foster parents through Eckerd Community Alternatives | Pasco & Pinellas. Liam was removed due to drug exposure at birth. His parents were very young; the mother struggled with an addiction to pills, while the father was incarcerated.
From the beginning, the Chutes worked as closely as possible with Liam’s mother, always hoping that she would get clean from drugs and be able to reunify with her son. The Chute’s went to the initial shelter hearing where they actually met Liam’s mother. Routine phone visits were set up for Mom so that she could do something as simple as listen to her child breathe over the phone. Elizabeth was encouraged by the efforts that Liam’s mother was putting into working a case plan to reunite with her son. The Chutes believe that being a foster parent has as much to do with helping the parents as it does in caring for the child(ren).
With that in mind the Chutes offered to give Mom an opportunity to have her first ever portrait taken with her son. When she arrived at the photo studio Elizabeth noticed that Mom’s hand was all bandaged up. The portraits were taken and all seemed to be going well until a few weeks later when Mom came to a supervised visit and shared with Elizabeth that she was still using pills and that the bandage around her hand was there only for effect. She went on to tell Elizabeth that she had no family support other that the support that she was receiving from Elizabeth.
Although this was a difficult conversation for Elizabeth and Chris to have, they decided that they were not going to give up on Liam’s mother. They went so far as to open up their home to Liam’s Mom. They allowed her to spend several hours a day at their home where they would continue to assist the mother by supervising her visits with her son. They encouraged Mom to continue working on her case plan and helped Mom as she worked towards her GED. Through it all, Mom had her ups and her downs. She had great days, and she had days that were not so great. The Chutes reminded themselves that addiction came with relapses, and they continued to encourage and support Liam’s mother.
Then came the day when mom stopped showing up for visits; she wasn’t calling anymore and no longer spent time at the Chute home with her son. That was June of 2014 (almost a year to the day when Liam had first come into care). It was also the first time that Liam’s father had come back into the picture. Released from prison, Dad began working his case plan and even found a job, but within 9 months he found himself once again back in jail.
This is a story about parents who loved their child but were unable to overcome life’s personal challenges. These parents saw that in the Chute home, Liam would have the possibility of a true second chance. The relationship that Elizabeth and Chris developed with these parents over time helped them to realize that Liam’s foster parents wanted the very same thing for Liam that they did, a safe, loving home and a place where Liam could have that second chance. Liam’s parents came to the realization that they would be unable to provide for their son’s ongoing needs, and they surrendered their parental rights as to Liam. At a little over 2 years old, Liam became a permanent part of the Chute family through adoption.
At the time of this writing the Chute home has grown from 4 to 9! Along with their biological daughter and adopted son, Elizabeth and Chris are currently caring for 5 additional foster children, ranging in ages from 10 months to 7 years.
Elizabeth shared that becoming a foster parent is by far the most rewarding thing that she and her husband have ever done, and that the reward of successfully working with families and seeing positive outcomes for children that come into care is one of the most gratifying parts of being a foster parent. “But,” she add, “it’s probably also among one of the hardest, most difficult things that we have ever done.” She and her husband feel that it’s worth it though to have the opportunity of working with families in an effort to provide that all important second chance.