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Love, Comfort, Safety and Support: National Reunification Month Wrap-upPosted Date: 07/06/2017
By: Keith Metz, DHS Communications Specialist
Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing reunification success stories from across the state. We learned about Rosie and the redemptive power of a strong, positive support system. We heard from Jesse and Krystal and witnessed their willingness to focus on their children’s well-being above all else as they worked to create a new normal for their family. Lastly, we got to know Misty and Justin and learned of their passion for and dedication to reunifying families by healing and repairing the lives of the children in their care and their parents.
And we could have shared so many more success stories. Though National Reunification Month is over, we will continue to share success stories and work toward broader acceptance of reunification because it is the most common goal in our cases with families, and it’s also our most common outcome. Last year, 44 percent of the children who left foster care in Arkansas were reunified with their biological parents. An additional 28 percent were reunified with biological relatives. Another 20 percent were adopted, which means that Arkansas exceeded the national average of 80 percent of children either going home, to a relative, or to an adoptive home.
For most of us, home is about love, comfort, safety and support, and we want to empower parents to become the loving, comforting, safe and supportive presence that their children need and deserve. This is why reunification is so important.
It takes an incredible amount of teamwork to realize these goals for our children and families. Investigators make the initial assessments of risk and safety and put foundational services in place to help. Caseworkers assess a family’s strengths and needs even further as they collaborate with the family to determine the best path to success for them. Supervisors monitor the bigger picture, coordinating agency efforts and guiding the team along the path.
Program assistants provide a tapestry of needed services and emotional support. Therapists and counselors help with the issues that brought the family to DCFS as well as any residual trauma. Foster parents provide safety and unconditional love for the children and an incredible capacity for mercy and belief in the parents. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers, attorneys ad litem, parent counsel and agency attorneys help represent the best interests of everyone and assist in navigating the complicated legal processes involved in these cases.
But the most important players on the team are the parents and the children. In each of the stories we’ve shared this month, and in the hundreds of other success stories out there, the common thread is the parents’ ability to overcome their struggles and mistakes and the children’s willingness to forgive their parents and trust them again. This resiliency and healing is a truly amazing thing to see play out.
Our staff and partners recognize how difficult this is for our families. They know that old patterns are hard to break and new ways of doing things are not easy, but they also know that it can be done. Rosie and Chelsea proved it. Jesse and Krystal showed us. Justin and Misty have seen it happen. And they all understand that it’s worth every bit of effort and struggle, every tough conversation, and every heart-wrenching tear from a child to be able to see a family come back together with newfound and re-discovered strengths and abilities and trust in each other.
Like Misty said in last week’s story, “when family doesn’t give up on each other, amazing things can happen, and life can be forever different, forever redeemed.” We agree, and that’s why we do what we do here at DCFS.