When he was just a month old, Carter was removed from his parents’ care. His dad, Daquane, and his mother were still teenagers and unprepared for the responsibility and stress of parenthood.
When Daquane was arrested on violence-related charges and his mother wasn’t able to care for him either, Carter’s maternal grandmother, Juliette, stepped in. She felt the best thing for baby Carter would be to stay with family and the court agreed.
Although she has been extremely involved in caring for Carter, Juliette wasn’t able to take placement of him. Her parents, however, were retired and had room in their home and their hearts. So, Carter went to stay with his maternal great grandparents while his father completed his journey to reunification.
“His great grandparents were a wonderful choice to be his caregivers since they are retired, know how to raise a child and have the time to commit to caregiving,” explains Sarah Morschauser, SaintA Case Manager.
Plus, the octogenarian couple saw it as a chance to stay young. “Even though he is close to 90 years old, it’s not uncommon for my dad to get down on the floor and play with Carter,” says Juliette.
As the Child Grew, Dad did Too
It’s long been said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Carter’s village is large, including his grandmother and step grandfather, his great grandparents, and other relatives who have looked after him and celebrated holidays and birthdays with him.
Still, it turns out there are few bonds stronger than between a father and his son. It took the better part of two years and a commitment to bettering himself, but on this past June 17, Daquane got to spend his first Father’s Day with his son, who is now nearly 3 years old.Today, Daquane is 21, has a job and is focused on being the best dad possible. “The turning point was when I went to jail and had time to think about my son,” says Daquane. “I knew I had to get control of my anger and emotions and not be controlled by them.”
“I needed to think about the bigger picture and be a reliable caregiver for my son. I didn’t have a good father figure growing up and I didn’t want my son to go through what I did.”
When Carter was first born, Juliette just hoped Daquane and her daughter would step up to the responsibilities of having a baby. “But after the violence, I really didn’t want anything to do with Daquane at all,” recalls Juliette. “I am the mama bear and he had hurt one of my own.”
Like Daquane’s life in general, his relationship with his son’s grandmother has done a 180. While he was in therapy, Daquane and Juliette became great at co-parenting Carter and eventually, she forgave him.
Father and Son Bonding
Daquane followed his court orders and, even though there were setbacks along the way, was able to be reunified with Carter. The youngster still splits his time between Daquane’s home and his great grandparents’ house, but his father is his legal guardian.
One key to their relationship has been father-son bonding time, which began with an important ritual. “Haircuts,” says Daquane, “Those were our very first bonding experiences and the first routine we formed together.”
At first, Carter was a little scared and would have to sit on his dad’s lap to get his haircut. But now, he sits on his own and really looks forward to getting his hair cut by Scottie, their regular barber.
“We gradually started other father-son routines, too. Now we go to the grocery store together and go for walks.” This summer, the father-son duo look forward to spending the 4th of July holiday together – and every holiday and birthday to come.
Reunification Month Comes to a Close
As June comes to a close, Morschauser reflects on what it means to her and her colleagues to be able to tell the lesser-told story of foster care: Reunification. In this case, she attributes much of the success to how the family works together.
“When there’s a child at the center, families tend to rally around them,” says Morschauser. “That’s what makes relative caregiving a good placement option and in this case, co-parenting played a big role in reunifying Daquane and Carter as well.”
Read about how co-parenting helped another dad work toward reunification with his little girl.