"The Moral of the Story is Anything is Possible"
Christopher, a 36-year-old father from Hartford, experienced a breakthrough the day he realized "the system" was there to help him get his 14-year-old daughter back home with him.
"I was hesitant because I didn't trust the system," he said. "But as time went on, I realized they were actually helping me to get my daughter home with me."
Christopher's 14-year-old daughter, Christinaly, was placed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the fall of 2019. Originally she resided in a foster home with a family she did not know and then later with her maternal grandmother.
When Christopher was contacted by the Department to say Christinaly was in a foster home, he knew immediately what he must do.
"I was always in her life and talked to her every day," he said. "But when I got the call, I was ready to take responsibility for my daughter." Now he knew he would have to do more.
Working with DCF Social Worker Shacarra Hite and staff from the Village for Families and Children, Christopher completed parenthood and fatherhood programs as well as a substance use evaluation. He said the Village helped him secure housing, furniture and energy assistance. He said Village staff also helped him by talking to his daughter about things that fathers may have trouble discussing. "They were great and very hands on. The Village staff really helped a lot."
But above all else, DCF and the Village encouraged him and gave him confidence. A team approach between a state agency and a community partner.
"They motivated me to do better, to get a better job and get my own apartment," said Christopher, who has worked for Town Fair Tire as a delivery man for a year this month. "They helped me push myself to be better. They told me what I needed to do to get my daughter back."
DCF Social Worker Shacarra Hite said Christopher made incredible progress."At the beginning, Christopher appeared as if he already lost the battle before beginning the fight," she said. "But despite the odds, he always expressed his undying love for his daughter. As months went by, Christopher began to regain his confidence and was determined to reunify with his daughter. Christopher exceeded all expectations . . . The moral of the story is anything is possible!"
Christinaly moved in with her father in January 2021 just before her 14th birthday.
Christopher said the experience of getting his daughter home is wonderful."It means everything to me," he said. "I can guide her to be a better human being and guide her away from mistakes I made." He said it was a relief to get her home. Father and daughter do a lot of things together - from going to the beach, getting her to hair appointments, learning Spanish and baking cookies.
What was that first Father's Day like waking up and knowing Christinaly was home? "It was great to be able to wake up together in the same house and eat breakfast," Christopher stated. That special day entailed visits with extended family, a walk to the park and down to a river.
"She's doing great," Christopher said, adding she is getting straight As in school. And so is Dad.
"Now I have a purpose," he said. "It elevated my mind and my thinking."