June is National Reunification Month, an effort spearheaded by the American Bar Association’s Parent Attorney Project to celebrate parents’ accomplishments in safely reunifying with childrenin foster care and to recognize the professionals who support them. Here, the American Bar Association’s Scott Trowbridge describes the impact of reunification celebrations:
Q: How did National Reunification Month start?
A: The idea for reunification celebrations started local, with jurisdictions that wanted to recognize the efforts of families to reunify.
In 1997, Congress passed the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which encourages adoption. There was a lot of attention being paid to adoptions and a lot of celebrations recognizing the importance of adoption.
Then some jurisdictions began to hold reunification celebrations, because most kids do go home, and parents who achieve reunification deserve recognition. The first celebrations we are aware of started in 1999, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Over the years, thousands of people have come to the reunification celebrations there.
As we travelled to different states, we learned about different reunification celebrations, and in 2010, the American Bar Association began publicizing Reunification Month as a national celebration.
Q: How is National Reunification Month having an impact?
A: First of all, we hope these are fun events for families. A lot of celebrations are lunches or dinners, held outside in a park or at community centers. Many of them have fun activities for kids, like face painting and bouncy castles.
Beyond that, if you work in this field, you know that the media almost only covers the bad stories from the child welfare system. Within the system as well, parents are too often told only they’ve done wrong. It’s important to recognize when parents have also done right by their children. All the feedback we’ve gotten from parents who have been honored at these events is that they appreciate it.
These events are also opportunities to honor the caseworkers, lawyers, mental health providers and judges who positively impact reunification.
We hope these celebrations inspire parents that are still in the process. Reunification can be done and they can succeed.
Find out more about National Reunification Month atwww.ambar.org/reunificationmonth.