“Oh, I’ve heard so much about you"…
When 18-month-old Natalie boarded a plane to North Carolina with her Social Worker, Rodney Moore, falling asleep on his chest made perfect sense. So did the comment from a woman who looked over and said, "She loves you. You are so good with her."
What would this same child say to her Social Worker 5 years after being reunified with her father, and being reintroduced to this Social Worker, whom she does not remember, yet who changed her life?
For Rodney, on the job training took a new meaning when he was assigned to his first case in 2015. The structure of formal knowledge and supervision helped to prepare this young worker for the challenges ahead. Yet, it was his innate judgement, optimism and genuine respect for a particular family, his colleagues and the child welfare system that created this emotional reunification story. A perfect, happily ever after.
Early in his career, Rodney was assigned to a case involving a mother who loved her one-year old little girl yet struggled with the perils of life's challenges. She had relocated to Connecticut with no family or friends to support her through her difficulties. The end result was the child needed to be placed.
The one person missing from this little girl's life was her Father. Where was he and what did he know?
Utilizing social media and other forms of technology, information was found that led the Department to believe the Father may be unaware of the situation. He resided in North Carolina and was contacted by Rodney. One phone call changed two lives. The Father was elated to hear from the Department and eagerly acknowledged his relation to this little girl, faxing over a paternity test confirming that he was this little girl’s Father. He had no idea where his girlfriend had taken his daughter and had been worried about her for months.
The Father and his Mom drove over 12 hours to visit and remained in contact with DCF over the next several months. He flew to Connecticut every two weeks, trips that were paid for by the Department. He and his daughter visited in parks, libraries, bookstores and the mall. According to Rodney, “There was a natural engagement between him and his daughter, there was a beautiful bond.”
In between visits, the Father initiated parenting classes in North Carolina, had his fingerprints taken and complied with background checks. He participated in court hearings and visited as often as he could. Father initiated all he could, as well as sending photographs of his home in hopes to show his continued efforts to have his daughter reunified to his care.
Rodney's efforts continued towards reunification with the Mother. Unfortunately, due to her issues, reunification was not a viable option.
On the last day of the Commitment trial, the Father traveled back to North Carolina to await the court’s decision. While he was in route home, it was decided Rodney would make an immediate home visit assessment and a flight to North Carolina was arranged for that night. Landing shortly after the Father arrived, it was learned his home looked exactly like the photographs that the Father had shared with the Department. It was child-proofed and the little girl’s room was exactly how she had left it. There were piles of clothing folded and arranged according to size and her decorations remained in her room. Portraits of Natalie were lovingly displayed on the walls of the home.
The family never gave up hope she would come home.
Three days after Rodney returned home from North Carolina, the Judge granted custody of this little girl to her Father and arrangements to fly her home were made. Rodney called the Mother and made plans for a lengthy visit so the two could spend time together. He conveyed the Father’s message to the Mother - encouraging her to relocate back to North Carolina and continue supervised visits with her daughter.
Reflecting back on that day, nearly five years ago, Rodney remembers arriving at the home and taking the little girl out of the car seat. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she saw her Father and all his extended family waiting for her on the porch. She ran and ran as fast as she could into her Father’s arms. He stated, “That is when I knew for certain, she was home.”
Rodney Moore is now an Ongoing Services Supervisor in the New Haven DCF Office. He shares this story with his trainees because he feels it is so important for his staff to understand the work and especially, fatherhood engagement.
Rodney has stayed involved with the family for the past five years and was invited this past August to be a surprise guest at the Father’s wedding. Rodney made the decision to attend the wedding on his own time, to support this next chapter in the family’s life. When the Father saw Rodney get out of his car, he was shocked, and they shared an emotional reunion.
Extended family members thanked Rodney for all he had done to bring this little girl home.
Now, it was Natalie's turn to say hello. The little girl, who was just a toddler at the time of our agency’s involvement, did not remember Rodney, but finally met the man again, who changed her life.
Her words……………..“Oh, I’ve heard so much about you,”
(Watch Rodney Moore's Interview on DCF TV: Doors to Hope and Healing)