Monday, March 14, 2016

Sister Separation & Sunflower #2016

In late November, right before Thanksgiving break, my six-year-old niece, Sunflower was removed from her mother's care by the Department of Protective and Family Services. After storming the CPS office, my youngest half-sibling lost custody of her daughter, and during the initial hearing, which I did not attend, she named Chris and I as a family placement. We'd just returned from a trip to Canada, and when I refused to change our holiday plans to attend court, Trin's venom flew. I knew from the moment I received the email below, our relationship would be severed indefinitely.

Fool me once, shame on me, Tenille.

But I'm done. No matter how much
reassurance you give yourself or receive from loved ones,
you know who you are inside.

Being there for someone doesn't mean you get to
pick and choose your battles, throwing out the ones that
cause you to sacrifice too much or feel too chaotic inside.
This life is a struggle, and as long as you
worship comfort and convenience, you will
never be a person I desire in my life.

Your relationship with Sunflower is your own journey,
but your journey with me is over.

This life is too short to give pieces of myself to
people who are guarded.

Know that is email is not written in anger;
I made sure to come to a place of clarity
and calm before sending it. I'm not asking
for an explanation or a debate; I'm telling
you I'm finished. I won't hand you my soul
anymore. I have a sister who values me, trusts my mind and heart in all situations,
fights with me, struggles with me, and supports me.
It's not you. I don't need money, I need good people.

If you had trusted me, you would have been at court
yesterday and Sunflower would be with you right now.
But you keep on trusting the system.


Reservations about Trinitie's attacking nature permeated my thoughts, but in the end, I could not let Sunflower go into foster care. She was placed in our home on Nov. 24th, and she remained in our care for approximately seventy days before being returned to her parents by the courts on Jan. 27th. She attended first grade at Pecan Creek, went on several holiday adventures with us, and for a brief season, she became an integral part of our family. We took her to the doctor, the dentist, and the optometrist. We bought her a new wardrobe, amassed a whole room full of toys, and fed her three square meals a day. We read books together, sang songs, and watched endless episodes of Peppa Pig and PJ Masks. Her parents came to our home three times a week for supervised visits. These interactions were tense, emotional, and difficult, but Sunflower needed her mom and dad. Chris and I advocated for her return the entire time, and after months of CPS visits, conversations with attorneys, and an intrusive home study, family reunification occurred.

The day she left broke my heart because I knew her mom would prevent me from continuing a relationship with her. During the entire time she was with us, her mother never once said thank you or expressed gratitude for keeping her daughter safe. Sunflower's dad remained courteous, gracious, and kind through the whole ordeal, but my little sister's unresolved anger prevented her from viewing the situation rationally. The story needed a villain, and considering our previous history, I was an easy target. You see Trinitie lived with me for a few years during her adolescence, and after battling a personal struggle with codependency, I began to set and enforce strict boundaries. Due to a childhood wreaked with heartache and instability, she was deeply wounded by my detachment. We were estranged for almost seven years, before reestablishing a healthier, more functional relationship in 2012 when she invited my husband and I to Knoxville, TN to witness the exchange of marriage vows. I met my neice for the first time when she was three years old.

I haven't seen Sunflower since January 27th, and I think about her almost daily. During the weeks following her return, Trinitie sent a series of abusive text messages demanding that if I wanted to see her daughter I would have to come to her home where I would be subjected to cruel, disrespectful treatment. Once again, I was faced with a decision to detach and move forward, or hold on and continue suffering. This time around the choice seemed harder because an innocent child was involved, and being Sunflower's aunt was one of the greatest joys of my life. In a moment of anger, I responded with an equally harsh reply, and in late February, our fate was sealed. Trinitie made it abundantly clear that I would never see her daughter again, and with sadness in my heart, I closed the door on a relationship that has brought me agony, bitterness,  merriment, wonder, and satisfaction over the years.

Today as I write this blog and process through the experience, I feel a sense of resolve. The precious child in the picture below will grow up to an exquisite, complex human, just like her mama. She will be made of strength and struggle, and she will be a survivor. I will love her from afar, and perhaps someday, I will have an opportunity to be her aunt again.


  1. Oh my, this is very hard to read. What a tragic, tragic situation.

    I have no doubt you will someday see this precious girl again.

  2. We are foster parents and at one time were also a kinship home. It is so difficult to navigate the realm of healthy boundaries in the midst of chaos and poor choices. It is always my hope that time spent with us will make a difference in ways that I can never imagine and may never know but that someday the child will understand the love they found with us. Blessings as you continue the journey, whatever that looks like.

  3. This sounds like such a heartache for all. I'll be holding all of you in the light, hoping that you will be able to see her again.

  4. My heart aches for you, for other caregivers, and the children caught in between. I believe that all things happen for a reason, and I believe there was a reason she was placed in your life. You may never know the impact you had on her, but I pray that somehow you be reunited.

  5. Oh sweet girl, you are one of the strongest people I know! I am so thankful for you and your transparency. As always, I am praying for you and your precious family!!! I love you so!!!

  6. It sounds like you have continued doing some healthy soul searching. You do have to take care of yourself! Sunflower will know later that you were always in her corner...