"Good man, good father, positive role model"
He was determined not to allow his son to be a "victim to the system." The cycle needed to be broken.
Tyrese is our teacher regarding the lessons of equitable supports and the successes which follow, when we focus on what someone can do versus what they cannot.
These values are exemplified by social worker, Loren Papagoda, from the New Haven Office. While working with Tyrese, their early relationship was not easy. As Tyrese missed court hearings and other meetings, it was apparent he was "overwhelmed with DCF requirements," according to Loren and "lost in the legal process."
She believed in him.
Yet, what Tyrese Cloud did have was a desire to not allow his 2-year-old son to grow up without him. Match this with the mindset of a worker who in earnest sets out to break the negative stereotypes of men as parents and who believes that they should be given the "same opportunities as a mother." Together you have a forceful team. The trust was built.
"She is a very understanding person," Tyrese stated about Loren. "She allowed me space to open."
Tyrese speaks emphatically of how Loren encouraged him. Pushed him. During one of the first visits he had with Terrance, Tyrese stated Loren looked right at him and said, "you are gonna get through this" and "you are going to get him back."
Tyrese Cloud was in good hands. The work could not be done in isolation.
It was Loren who worked diligently to assemble a team to support Tyrese towards the goal of reunification. One could say a "village" was formed around him.
Little Terrance needed his father - everyday.
While the Department of Children and Families is the child protective services agency, DCF is one part of the overall child protective services system. With a wide array of contracted and non-contracted services, individuals like Tyrese Cloud are afforded family-specific supports.
The Department's efforts with families are aided by 'r kids Family Center in New Haven. Reunification and Therapeutic Family Time (RTFT) is one of their programs designed to assist parents in reunifying with their children. According to Executive Director Randi Ruben-Rodriguez, approximately 90% of the families referred to their program for reunification successfully reunified. This seemed to be a perfect match for Tyrese and Terrance.
Establishing that relationship with Tyrese took time. Enna Garcia, Director of Programs, Kathy Hagearty, Clinical Coordinator, and Karen Swanson, Case Manager, worked closely with him. They looked at his strengths, what he was doing to become stronger. They even went as far as teaching him how to utilize ZOOM for virtual visits. According to Enna, "all he needed was a little hand," as he had the desire.
Before entering the private sector, Enna and Karen had a combined 33 years of experience working for DCF. What were their experiences now looking from the outside in? Loren was meeting Tyrese "exactly where he was at," according to Enna and "pushing him to be the best father he could be." With the New Haven DCF team, Karen felt they had, "complete collaboration," when it came to decision making and "supervisors very present in meetings" allowed the entire process to work even better.
Time went on and Tyrese was achieving his goals. With pride, he talked of his organization, seeing Terrance, and yearning for that day when his little boy could come home.
Tyrese was also assisted by r' kids with tangible items such as food, a bed and sheets, chairs and gates to protect Terrance from falling down the stairs.
With 'r kids and DCF working closely with Tyrese, one additional component was needed to assist him and ‘r kids suggested to the team that Tyrese would benefit from the Family Check Up Parenting Program through Children's Community Programs. Funded by the Office of Early Childhood, the focus is on "early intervention," according to Program Director Galit Sharma. The program consists of "positive behavior support, setting effective limits and building family relationships," Galit stated. She had the perfect match for Tyrese in a staff member who himself was a father.
Jysean Duncan was assigned to work with the family to further aid the reunification process. A father himself, he described their work as a "wonderful experience," and while joining with Tyrese, "we learn together and grow together as fathers."
According to Tyrese, Jysean is a "very nice person" and it was especially helpful to have someone who was also a father themselves working with him. Those efforts consisted of countless hours talking about potty training, setting limits and bedtime routines over and over again.
The day finally came when Terrance could go home.
"It took a village," stated Loren when asked how this day came. A village of supports.
Given the pandemic, a virtual assessment was done one last time on Tyrese's apartment. It was safe. Loren described her emotions that day and being "so relieved" Terrance went home!
This was her first reunification but certainly not her last.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts, Tyrese Cloud now puts Terrance to bed every night. For Terrance, his father's face is the last one he sees before he goes to sleep and the first one he sees when he awakes. Tyrese describes his little boy as a "happy kid and happy to be home."
"He loves me," Tyrese stated and "wants to be with me all the time." Those words are spoken by a grown man about his son. It is hard not to believe Tyrese himself wouldn't have had those same feelings towards his own father - the one he yearned to have a consistent presence in his life while he was in and out of placement.
Systems evolve over time. Decades ago, fathers were not engaged, pursued to care for their children or offered an array of services. What would Tyrese's life be like if those systems were in place when he was a child? What permanency could he have experienced?
As a result of the partnership between the Department of Children and Families, 'r kids Family Center and Children's Community Programs (CCP), the intergenerational cycle of neglect in this family has been broken. A little boy is being raised by his father.
Tyrese's days with Terrance are filled with walks to the park, playing games and his wish to buy his son a Power Wheels car. Just like the one he never had as a child.
When Tyrese was asked what he would say to other parents involved with DCF, his statements were quite clear. "Don't think a lot of yourself, think a lot of your child," and "do what you need to do."
Tyrese Cloud is an example of what can happen with the right supports at the right time when agencies come together towards a common goal. Simply wanting to do better, Tyrese achieved what he set out to accomplish and so much more.
Someday, little Terrance may not remember the names of Loren, Randi, Enna, Kathy, Karen, Galit and Jysean. He may not be able to say "thank you" to the people who supported his father and who allow him to receive hugs and kisses from a man who so desperately wanted to raise him. Yet, he forever will feel their presence and the impact they played on his life.
When asked how he would like people to think of him, Tyrese did not hesitate in his response…
"Good man, good father, positive role model."