June is National Reunification Month!

June 1, 2020

Celebrated in June each year, National Reunification Month recognizes the people and efforts around the country that help families to stay together. 

The trauma that family separation causes to children and parents is immeasurable and often permanent.[1] Outcomes for children who are separated from their families are worse than those for children allowed to remain in their homes, even where those homes are imperfect.[2]  In honor of Reunification Month, the ABA Center on Children and the Law collected stories from children who were removed from, and eventually returned to, their families. These stories highlight the trauma that children face when removed:

“Every family we moved in with was very kind and meant well. But in my heart, I knew I wasn't home. . . . It made [my sister and me] miss our family more.”  Diana’s Story

 

“Being taken from mom traumatized me, even though I was placed with kin, because I wanted to be with my mom.” Terrell’s Story

 

The trauma that separated families face is devastating even under the best of circumstances. Under our current circumstances—an unprecedented global health crisis—that trauma is exponentially more severe. Separated families that were previously allowed to visit each other in person are “now marooned in a world of video chats . . . .”  And these are the lucky families that have access to the technology required for video visits.  Many families are not so lucky.

Because of the overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence of the trauma that families face when separated, the goal of the child welfare system is to keep families together whenever possible and to reunify separated families as quickly as possible. The goal of reunification has become even more critical in our current health crisis. 

In honor of Reunification Month, the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel and the Colorado Department of Human Services are teaming up to celebrate reunification heroes throughout the month.  We will highlight families, attorneys, and social workers/family advocates who embody the spirit of reunification.  Look for stories about our reunification heroes in future OCYF newsletters, on the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel’s website and Facebook page, and on the CO4Kids Facebook page.

If you know a reunification hero that you would like to nominate for recognition, tell us!  Contact Christy Van Gaasbeek, ORPC Training Director, at cvangaasbeek@coloradoorpc.org or (720) 388-8616.

 

[1] See, e.g., Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, 310 F.Supp. 3d 1133, 1147 (S.D.Cal. 2018); Nolasco v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, 319 F.Supp. 3d 491, 503 (D.D.C. 2018); M.G.U. v. Nielsen, 325 F.Supp. 3d 111, 122 (D.D.C.2018); Nicholson v. Williams, 203 F.Supp. 2d 153, 198-99 (E.D.N.Y. 2002).

[2] See, e.g., Joseph P. Ryan & Mark F. Testa, Child Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency: Investigating the Role of Placement and Placement Instability, 27 Child. & Youth Servs. Rev. 227 (2005); Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., Child Protection and Child Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Foster Care, 97 Am. Econ. Rev. 1583 (2007); Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., Child Protection and Adult Crime: Using Investigator Assignment to Estimate Causal Effects of Foster Care, 116 J. of Political Econ. 4 (2008); Lowenstein, Kate. Shutting Down the Trauma to Prison Pipeline Early, Appropriate Care for Child-Welfare Involved Youth, 2018; Côté SM, Orri M, Marttila M, Ristikari T. Out-of-home placement in early childhood and psychiatric diagnoses and criminal convictions in young adulthood: a population-based propensity score-matched study.

[3] See C.R.S. § 19-1-102(1).

 

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