Meagan McConaughey, who became a foster parent through our Fort Worth Upbring Foster In Texas office in 2014, had no idea what a positive impact she’d make on the child in her care and helping the family reunify.
When Cory (15-months-old) was placed in Meagan’s home in September 2015, he was barely able to verbally communicate, had severe diaper rash and could not walk due to severe burns on his feet. The CPS investigator informed Meagan that it was suspected that Cory’s mother’s boyfriend had submerged him in a bathtub of scalding water. During placement, Cory would not let go of the CPS investigator – the woman responsible for removing him from his home, his mother and everything familiar – now the only person he recognized in this scary new environment. Cory screamed when the investigator tried to pass him over to Meagan’s mother, Mary, who also lives in her home and serves as her respite provider.
During the following weeks, Meagan began to identify cues that triggered panic attacks for Cory.
While at the grocery store, Cory spotted a young black man heading his way and had what Meagan described as a panic attack. Meagan quickly recognized Cory was afraid of black men.
She also discovered that Cory had panic attacks at bath time. The sound of running water made him scream in fear until he was placed in the bathtub and realized it wasn’t too hot.
Meagan worked tirelessly to help Cory with his anxieties – reassuring him that he was safe – and soon his panic triggered by black men ceased. In addition, Cory was never present when the bathtub was filled and Meagan learned he actually preferred to sit in the shower instead.
Slowly, Meagan watched Cory transform from a crying child who would never smile, to one who loved to run around his new home – always laughing. Cory also learned to enjoy a variety of nutritious food – a far cry from the cheese-only diet he preferred when first arriving to Meagan’s home. And he began making friends with kids at daycare!
Meet Sarah – The Birth Mother
Each week, Sarah would visit Cory and it broke her heart to have to say goodbye when it was time to leave. Meagan saw that Sarah was working tirelessly to gain back custody of Cory and knew she could help.
Sarah often struggled to properly discipline Cory – now a rambunctious 18-month-old constantly testing boundaries and throwing toys when he became angry – telling him “no” and then immediately hugging him afterward. Meagan knew this was sending Cory mixed signals and started working with Sarah to teach her proper ways to discipline. Soon, Sarah was communicating with Meagan about Cory’s daily schedule, parenting techniques, etc., and was granted longer visits including extended visits at her own home. Sarah also got a full-time job and began relying on her mother for support.
The boyfriend, who had abused Cory, was issued a restraining order and criminal charges were filed. Although Sarah was pregnant with his child, she knew she would have to stay away from him in order to get Cory back. In February 2016, Sarah had her new baby boy, and a few short weeks later Cory was discharged from foster care to be reunified with his mother and new baby brother.
Cory continues to go to the same daycare he attended while in foster care and Meagan stays in regular contact with Sarah to provide support and advice as needed. Although Meagan misses Cory, she did everything she could to help him and Sarah.
Cory’s story is a perfect example of the benefits of working together as foster parents with the biological parents – improving the lives of the children in care and furthering our mission – to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities.