Hope is visiting Asher on Saturday.

Simply writing that sentence makes my heart skip a beat and freak out all at the same time. How will her brother respond to her? Will they connect? Is this wise? What if things go poorly?

We asked if Asher’s youngest sister, who was not a victim of abuse but experienced (unbeknownst to her) two episodes of grooming, could visit her brother several months ago. We believed he was moving in the right direction and that a visit with Hope would encourage further understanding of what was awaiting him at home. His group leader was not comfortable with the idea and put the kibosh on it. At the time, I was not a little irritated. Joseph and I felt that our son was stuck in the midst of a bureaucratic tug-of-war between his social worker, group leader, rehabilitation specialist, counselor, probation officer, and us. Individually, each of these people was necessary for an aspect of Asher’s recovery but taken as a whole, they tended to waste a tremendous amount of time.

But our detestable social worker was replaced two months ago by a woman that appears to actually enjoy her job. She is quick to listen and interested in fulfilling her role within the greater context with efficiency and diplomacy. We were also reassigned to a different counselor who likewise works as Asher’s rehabilitation specialist. This gave us significant insight into the depth of Asher’s trust issues and blew our son’s cover. In light of both these changes and coming to better understand what was present, but either not communicated clearly to us or kept hidden by our son, we agreed with the decision to reject a visit with Hope. At this same time, we pulled back on a possible community pass, which would allow Asher to go into the small town outside of JCF and have lunch with us sans JCF staff. The community pass is a substantial step in the reintegration process but Asher’s disappointing behavior towards us during the past few months also made that an impossibility.

However, we are tentatively seeing the teeniest changes in our son. The decision within family counseling to address Asher’s mistrust of us and what that stems from cannot be understated. And while it may appear that we’re jumping pretty quickly from believing our son may never return home to cautiously allowing ourselves some hope, it must be remembered that Asher lives in an environment where a therapeutic agenda is lived out 24/7. You can address a lot when you are sitting in group meetings for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week on top of being held accountable the other 22 hours.

And so, when Asher told us last week that his staff was willing to allow him a special visit with Hope, we took it as a good sign that improvements are occurring. We are praying that seeing Hope, who at 6-years old is a far cry from the 3-year old he left, will awaken in him a deeper perspective on exactly what he is missing. Perhaps she will arouse in him some remembrance of his own tender years. I don’t know. But I feel like this is something momentous even if I can’t say, for certain, what will happen.

Asher also asked Joseph if we would come for our own visit apart from Hope.

It is nearly 10 weeks since we last saw Asher during a regular visit. In that time, we had one face-to-face staffing and one phone-in staffing, two family counseling sessions including him, and five 10-minute phone calls. That’s it. And while we remained invested in each of those events, we never called him but allowed him to call us every time. We never told Asher how much we missed him or how much we wished he wanted us to visit.  And we made no mention of moving forward with future visits.

I say all this because our son’s willingness to seek a visit from us feels like a shift. I figured Asher would find out about his allowed visit with Hope but say nothing concerning seeing us. And Joseph reiterated why we stopped regular visitation in the first place. Asher accepted Joseph’s explanation and then kindly asked, again, if we would consider a regular visit.

We will consider a regular visit. In fact, we are hoping to get a family counseling session with Asher and Jon tomorrow, before our special visit with Hope, where we can address it. We want Asher to see that we respect and value his efforts to take a step outside of his comfort zone and put his own feelings on the line. We also want to make sure this is authentic and not another ploy to woo us. We aren’t sure what, exactly, will tell us the difference. We are trusting the Holy Spirit for discernment and wisdom.