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Forever different, forever redeemed: Misty and Justin’s Story

Date: 06/23/2017


This is the third in our series of successful reunification stories for National Reunification Month. This week’s success story comes to us from our partners at Second Chance Youth Ranch in Paron, AR.


Justin and Misty Wagnon wholeheartedly embrace the idea that their primary role as caregivers at “the Ranch” is to prepare children to be reunified with their biological parents whenever safe and appropriate. But that doesn’t stop them from connecting with and loving these children as if they were going to stay there forever. Their emotional recollections about the first sisters they fostered and the girls’ father provide a glimpse into how the Ranch works so hard to invest in its children and prepare them for a better, stronger, more stable life with their real parents.


“When the girls first arrived in our home,” Misty commented, “they were angry and hardened, and they carried the weight of what they had been through everywhere they went and in everything they did.”


The older sister wore black clothing all the time and always had her hair covering her face. Her younger sister cried every single night for nights on end. The pain and neglect they had experienced at home showed on their faces and remained fresh in their minds during their first days at the Ranch, and they adamantly resolved to never forgive their father.


However, the goal of the girls’ case was reunification, so they and their father started therapy together. This was tough work for the girls, and Misty remembered lots of late night tears and heart-to-heart conversations with both sisters. But Misty and Justin consistently encouraged them to allow room in their hearts for healing.


“Slowly, the healing started to take place,” Misty commented. “And we watched as the walls came down.”  They learned that the older sister, despite her sullen outer façade, was really a kind, gentle, and hopeful soul. Her sister showed herself to be enthusiastic, quite opinionated, and witty. She became the energetic, fun-loving child that she really was, and got very excited when Misty put hair bows in her hair. Her sister started wearing colors other than black and became much more confident, proudly showing her beautiful face instead of hiding behind her hair.


Despite the positive changes in the girls, both held onto a significant amount of pain and uncertainty concerning their family situation. The father knew he had made mistakes in the past, but he was determined to do whatever he could to make it right. Misty recalled that the older sister refused to speak to her dad for the first several times he called, but that he kept calling. He understood the rejection, and he resolved to put his own hurts aside and keep trying. 


Justin and Misty made a point to speak with the father as often as they could to help support him. Justin recalled “He was always courteous and respectful to us as foster parents, which we know had to be difficult for him. We were raising his daughters, but he chose to work with us instead of giving in to resentment.” The father impressed everyone with his commitment to be the father that his daughters deserved. He fully acknowledged his issues and actively sought treatment and support.


“He did everything asked of him in order to be reunited with his daughters,” remembered Misty, and the best moment, she said, was the first time that the father embraced her after a counseling session. “It was the best way he knew to express how he felt about the way we loved his daughters.”


After nearly six months of being in foster care, reunification day finally arrived. The girls were ready and so was their father, and Misty commented that even though she and Justin loved the girls tremendously, “the girls and their father proved that when family doesn’t give up on each other, amazing things can happen, and life can be forever different, forever redeemed.”


We’re so thankful for Misty and Justin Wagnon and everyone at the Ranch and the way they love, support and nurture our children while working so hard to help achieve reunification with biological parents.

Arkansas Department of Human Services
Arkansas Department of Human Services

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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