The decision to remove a child from his or her home and parents should never be taken lightly. While a living situation may be fraught with abuse, drugs or neglect, families still maintain cultural, racial and social values that often define a child's sense of identity.
The forced separation of child and parents is a potentially devastating moment. But, when those same parents are able to overcome challenges, get their lives back on track, and reunite with their children, there is cause for celebration.
Reunification in many cases is a testament to the exceptionally hard work by parents to overcome cycles of abuse, drugs and violence, and to recreate bonds with their children. There was mother in Washington who overcame addiction to heroin and meth to reunite with her daughter, who spent the first year of her life in foster care. There was also a father in Missouri who recently was reunited with his three children with the help of one of our CASA volunteers. After being incarcerated due to a serious substance abuse problem that led to abusive behaviors, he received treatment, family therapy and took advantage of other resources that have made it possible for his children to return home, where they are thriving.
Thankfully, reunification happens more often than one might think. Of the almost 280,000 kids who left the foster system in 2009, 51 percent were reunited with parents or primary caretakers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This is a promising statistic, and one that speaks to the determination by parents and other caregivers to overcome addictions and other challenges in order to create a safe and stable home to which their children can return.
Each year, the American Bar Association celebrates these moments through National Reunification Days. Reunification events across the country take place between Mother's Day and Father's Day. This effort not only highlights the efforts of parents and caregivers, but also the judges, social service systems, foster parents, advocates, and others who supported them through the process.
The sad truth is that reunification isn't always possible, and sometimes may not even be in the best interests of a child. In these cases other permanent solutions need to be found, including kinship care or adoption.
In the many cases where reunification is possible, we must ensure that parents have access to the support and resources that will help them succeed.
When they do, we should take a moment to recognize their heroic efforts to overcome substance abuse or other challenges so they can reunite with their children, offering a safe and permanent home in which the bonds of family are strong and thriving.