In celebration of National Reunification Month, the American Bar Association hosted a free informational webinar titled “What Child Welfare Agencies Can Do to Support Reunification Parent Partnerships and Reunification Practices” on June 7, 2023.

The Oregon and Georgia Departments of Human Services shared steps their organizations have taken to best support children and families in reunification after removal. They noted that the role of Child Welfare agencies is imperative in supporting this connection. Oregon’s representatives shared their department’s Vision for Transformation, a framework of understanding and policy for reunification. Included in this Vision for Transformation is the philosophy that “children do best growing up in their families and their communities,” which “brings racial equity and anti-racism to every aspect of our work.” Representatives from Georgia’s Department of Human Services shared a similar vision in the policy work it has done in recent years, including a language shift from “Foster Parent” to “Partnership Parent” and an increased role of children’s parents through Parent 2 Parent (P2P) meetings and a parent role that is a normalized as possible during the trauma of removal. Parents are empowered to maintain their connection to their children in care by attending their children’s activities, doctors’ appointments, and more.

A Georgia DCFS Partnership Parent, Kimberly Fowler, shared that the values of compassion, transparency, family time, and respect are at the forefront of supporting children and families in reunification. Jeannette Vega of Rise, a parent-led NYC-based advocacy organization, shared how access to family time and resources to meet her physical and emotional needs impacted her reunification with her son. She presented a 90-day plan that would connect parents, partnership parents, and case managers in best supporting the needs of children and families. “Families can flourish and grow and never return to child welfare involvement when they are supported and guided,” she said. Kacie Hollinger of the Oregon Parent Advisory Council noted that her positive relationship with her child’s partnership parents was instrumental in their reunion.

The webinar ended with a Q & A session, and viewers were encouraged to browse the National Reunification Month resources on the American Bar Association’s website.

By Jacqueline Glenn, Policy Intern