Mother, daughter reunite after COVID-19 kept them apart for months

After nearly four months of separation, an Ottawa mother was recently reunited with her 13-year-old daughter, who lives with a foster family in Quebec. Roxanne and Kalie say despite talking on the phone every day, nothing compares to being able to hug each other in person.

Roxanne can finally hug her daughter Kalie, who lives in foster care in Quebec

Roxanne lives in an affordable housing community in Ottawa's south end. Her daughter lives with a foster family in Gatineau. The two were recently reunited after more than three months apart. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

CBC Ottawa is not using Roxanne and Kalie's last names to protect the identity of Kalie, who lives in foster care.

They spoke every day on the phone, but Roxanne says nothing compares to seeing her 13-year-old daughter Kalie in person.

"It's never the same. I want her beside me so I can touch her. She's my daughter," she said one day last month, with Kalie finally by her side after nearly four months apart.

Kalie lives with a foster family in Gatineau. Ordinarily, she would travel across the border most weekends to see her mom, who lives in an affordable housing community run by the Multifaith Housing Initiative in Ottawa's south end. 

But when the pandemic hit, Quebec shut its borders to non-essential travel. Even when they were reopened, the pair stayed apart to protect the health of Kalie's foster family.

On July 10, after nearly four months apart — the two were finally reunited. 

"I had been missing [my mom], even though I called her every day. I just wanted to see her in person," said Kalie. 

One of the first things Roxanne and Kalie did together was check on Roxanne's garden - a source of comfort during the pandemic. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Kalie was placed in foster care several years ago at a time when Roxanne felt she couldn't care for her properly. She's doing well in current living situation, and both mother and daughter agree it's best for her to continue there.

The day of their reunion, Kalie's foster mother dropped her off at Roxanne's home, where Roxanne was waiting outside. Even though the two wanted to be cautious, Kalie couldn't help but hug her mom.

Ottawa resident Roxanne describes what it was like to be reunited with her daughter, who lives in foster care, after nearly four months of separation. CBC Ottawa is not using Roxanne’s last name to protect the identity of her daughter. 0:41

"She got out of the car, and she didn't even do one step, and she was around my neck," Roxanne laughed. 

"It felt like everything was back where it once [had] been," Kalie said. "Before the coronavirus happened. And before all the madness."

Separated by COVID-19

For much of the pandemic, Roxanne has been separated from not just her daughter, but also the rest of her family. 

She has an adult son who lives with her 10-year-old grandson in Kanata. Roxanne initially stayed away out of concern for her son's health, as he has only one lung and has been working in a busy warehouse throughout COVID-19.

Though they finally met in person in June, they are still taking precautions. "We still don't see each other like we want to," said Roxanne, adding her son remains scared of going outside. 

Roxanne says she's struggled with pandemic isolation, being separated not just from Kalie but also her parents, her adult son and her 10-year-old grandson. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Roxanne also must keep her distance from her mother, who tested positive for COVID-19 in May and only got a negative test result last week.

She is living in a long-term care home in Quebec. Because Roxanne's father is recovering from cancer, and is worried for his own health, he wasn't able to visit either.

"It's very difficult for everybody at the moment," said Roxanne. 

Despite these limitations, Roxanne was recently able to get together with both her son and daughter for the first time at a nearby park.

While she said it felt good to have the family together, she also felt nervous about getting too close to her son, and that was disappointing. 

"It seems like we're not as close as we were before," Roxanne said.  "I don't think that's true, but that's how it feels."

Though Roxanne and Kalie planned to keep their distance at first, when 13-year-old Kalie stepped out of the car at Roxanne's place, she couldn't help but hug her mother. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

For comfort, Roxanne has turned to her garden, saying the "satisfaction of seeing what I'm doing and what comes out of it" helps take her mind off her worries.

When Kalie finally returned to Roxanne's home, one of the first things they did was visit the community garden so Roxanne could show Kalie her tomatoes.

"They're looking healthy and growing," Kalie said.

"I'm really appreciating the time I'm having right now," said Roxanne, smiling at her daughter beside her. "Just hopefully everything [becomes] better, right? That's all. One day at a time."