This June, we are celebrating Reunification Month against the backdrop of COVID-19. Many in-person visits have been suspended, services have shuttered and courts remain closed, creating additional barriers to reunification.
It always requires extraordinary stamina, resilience and hope for parents to believe that the system that separated their family will allow them to reunite. This year, parents face higher stress and uncertainty, losses and pain.
Now it’s even more important to replace the current dynamics of child welfare interventions—threat, coercion, punishment, and lack of privacy and self-determination—with approaches that strengthen parents’ power.
As part of our Fighting for Our Rights series and in recognition of National Reunification Month, Rise is exploring how parent legal representation can support reunification.
Here, Rise talks with Marty Guggenheim, professor of clinical law at NYU Law School, co-director of NYU Law School’s Family Defense Clinic and co-author of the study “Effects of an interdisciplinary approach to parental representation in child welfare.” His research proves that interdisciplinary legal representation—an approach where a legal team includes a lawyer, parent advocate and social worker—helps families safely reunify more quickly. His research also shows that many children do not need to be in foster care at all.
“It’s unfair that you get to spend Thanksgiving with your family and you’re not letting me have my kids home,” my client said. I felt guilty and it did feel unfair.
After the home visit, I returned to the agency and pleaded with the administrators to allow the children to spend Thanksgiving with their mother.
“Sorry, Joselyn. We can’t risk having the kids home given the allegations.”
I wanted so badly to give this mother something to feel … Read More
June’s National Reunification Month celebrates the perseverance of parents reunifying with children from foster care — and the professionals who support them.
Below are interviews with four parents who recently reunified with their children or are on their way. They were represented by lawyers, social workers and parent advocates at Brooklyn Defender Services — legal teams they said they cried with and shared their joy with, too.
Photos are courtesy of the Self Portrait Project, a citywide initiative … Read More