Close to 9,000 children were in foster care in Washington state last year, but the majority of these kids will eventually return home. Today, as part of Family Reunification Day, families are celebrating their reunions after overcoming obstacles that range from drug abuse to struggles with parenting skills.
Born addicted to heroin
Talking to a professionally-dressed Nina Caso, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, her life was in total crisis. She hit rock bottom, and lost custody of her 2-year-old daughter.
“Her name is Isabella. She is a happy little baby, and she’s very smart—she’s ahead of her time, the doctor says. So that’s good, considering her circumstances,” Caso said.
Almost more striking than the circumstances, though, is Caso’s honesty in everything she talks about, including her daughter’s earliest days.
“She was born addicted to heroin, so she was removed at birth and was detoxed off of—they had her on a morphine drip, so that she could detox and be comfortable at the same time,” she said.
'When she was taken was when it really hit me’
Now 28, Caso began using drugs at 13, and eventually got hooked on heroin. She tried to get clean; she was in and out of rehab eight times before she gave birth.
“When she was taken was when it really hit me. And that’s when she was 3 days old,” she said. “That was when I knew I was ready to change.”
Caso went to Yakima for a detox program. While there, she says she did everything she was told because she didn’t know how to live anymore. She was sick, devastated, and ashamed. Her family didn’t trust her.
'It shows people can change’
After a month in the program, Caso’s daughter joined her. Caso opted into family treatment court because she wanted the accountability. And today, she’s two years clean.
“It shows people can change, and no matter where you came from, what your story is, you can get help, and you can be a parent to your child,” Caso said.
Today, Caso is working three jobs in social services. She is also going to school to earn her chemical dependency certification so she can help other women rejoin their families.
According to the Department of Social and Health Services, 70 percent of children who go into foster care are able to return home.