Heather and Haylee’s Reunification Story – Part One

Guest post by Heather Strickland. Heather and her daughter Haylee were reunited through Eckerd Community Alternatives foster care services after Haylee was taken out of her mother’s custody due to Heather’s drug addiction. This is part one of a two part series. 

My name is Heather. I’m 24 years old and have been reunified with my beautiful Haylee bug since March 6, 2015. I should probably start this off with a joke, but I don’t find losing my child to be a joking matter. On April 14, 2014, I found the man I love dead and lost my kids in the same day. I have a step-son I may never see again. I started doing what I wanted to do instead of what I needed to do, not only for my daughter, but for myself as well. Not long after I went to jail, I lost everything we spent four years to build.

I got placed in DACCO Residential Drug Treatment Program and spent six and half months there. After which, I was reunified with my daughter. I had to meet with two awesome FRT counselors twice a week, my caseworker once a week, work, try to make my groups and take care of my daughter, which is not an easy thing to do. I know that I could have left DACCO at any time and not gotten Haylee back, or I could have used while I was in there and risked it all, but I didn’t.

I struggle everyday like so many, but I haven’t given up and I’m not about to, and neither should you, because I believe if I can do it then why can’t you … simply unless you don’t want to.

When I left DACCO I had no place to live. I take a bus every day now and live at metro, but I do what I have to for myself and my daughter because if I don’t no one will. I’ve been through it and back, but the truth is who hasn’t? Everyone has gone through something; some people are going through stuff as I speak. It’s not what you go through or went through, it’s how you learn from it and grow. This also leaves the question of if you want you want your children to go through half of what you went through.  I know I don’t, and for me I know that no one can protect or love my daughter the way I do.

Remember to always count your blessings, and children are your number one blessings. They are a reflection of you; they are also the joy in life. They may get on your nerves sometimes, but don’t you think you get on theirs too? Always keep in mind that you could be having the worst day ever and they do something silly or amazing, like when they talk or walk for the first time, or they say I love you just to say it, or, our favorite, when they’re sleeping and they look and sound like angels and your whole day has changed …  and just for a moment you realize they are people to.

But … maybe instead of just for a moment, you should always keep in mind they are just like you. They have feelings and memories; I know when my daughter cries about her family I do too! There is nothing like a bond between a parent and their child. It’s a lifelong connection. Neither a spouse’s love nor a chase can ever amount to the joy a child can bring. In the end ask yourself is it worth it. I believe it is for everyone, and I know it is for me. I don’t know where I’d be without my daughter and more importantly where would she be without me. Just remember be grateful for your children and keep in mind not everyone is as blessed as we are.

In part two of this story we hear from Tim Burkowske, licensed foster care parent, who’s family took care of Halyee while her mother could not. We will hear about the joy the family experienced in having a foster child in their home, the bitter-sweetness of her leaving, and the lifetime bonds they made with both Halyee and her mother Heather.