Did you know that June is nationally recognized as Reunification Month? As explained by the SCDSS, this month is used to “raise awareness and to celebrate the work put in to strengthen families.”
Children that get removed from their home, through no fault of their own, are often caught in a tangled web in the system with their parents attempting to complete a treatment plan. The ultimate goal is to bring the family back together in a safe and loving home. This is very challenging for these families especially the ones with little to no support from extended family and friends. One of the most recent statistics says that only 47% of these children will reunite with their families. (Annie E. Casey Foundation)
As a local guardian ad litem here in York County, my experience with reunification has been far less than that 47% above. Many of the biological families I have worked with have had such a struggle with addiction and poverty for generations that reunification has just not been possible. For those children, their stories include a very long journey to permanency.
There is one beautiful situation that I had the honor of being part of many years ago that still is near and dear to my heart. Two beautiful boys, Darin and Caden, had been taken away from their biological parents and were living with a relative. The biological Mother was said to be unreachable and her appointed lawyer was very eager to just close the case without giving her a chance to rectify the situation.
In Jessica’s words, “The Guardian Ad Litem was heaven sent in my situation. I thank God for putting her in my life when I really needed someone to hear my voice”. As the voice for the children, it wasn’t necessarily my place to give her a voice, but I knew reunification was the ultimate goal and in the best interest of the children.
Jessica is a special mom who faced many challenges in her journey, but her children were her heart. She worked the treatment plan, and even though it took over two years of ups and downs, she was dedicated to raising Darin and Caden and having them return home. The guardian has a special role of forming relationships with the children they are appointed to and seeking out what is in their best interest. Many believe that young children may not be capable of making decisions or sharing their needs. Jessica’s young son Caden, when asked if he wanted to go live with his momma, spoke in his little sweet voice that will forever be implanted on my soul. “Yes”, he said, “she belongs to me.”
Though I would love to say I have the opportunity to stay in touch with the many guardian children I have had over eleven years, it doesn’t usually work out this way. Since this is one of the worst life experiences many of our families have, when it is over, much of the time they want to step away from all of it. Sometimes, that includes the volunteers that were their children’s voice. This I understand.
Thankfully with this story, Jessica and I have maintained communication over the years, and I have even seen the boys. For this I am so grateful.
When I asked Jessica words of wisdom that she would give to families involved in the system right now, this is what she said, “When you feel like there isn’t any hope, don’t give up and just do your part and everything will work out.”
It takes a village to help families in crisis, how can you help be their voice?
– Susie Boyle, Director of Outreach and Partnerships
Jessica, Darin, Caden, and Susie