June is National Reunification Month, when we raise awareness and recognize those who help families stay together. We know that the vast majority of parents love their children, and the parents of the children we serve in foster care are no exception. That’s why CASA’s top priority is to support families towards reunification, whenever safe and possible.
In honor of Reunification Month, four young people from Legal Services of New Jersey’s Reunified Foster Youth Program have shared their reunification stories with the American Bar Association (ABA). Each story and circumstance is different—but they all share a focus on the unique, powerful and healing bond of family.
“Even though I was very happy with Mark and Teresa [my foster parents], I knew at the end of the day, I wanted to be back with my parents and would never want to be adopted. I also wish that my dad was better supported.”
Diana and her sister grew up in a home where her father struggled with alcoholism and her mother was a victim of domestic violence. Her father called the child welfare agency for support when they were struggling with housing and money, but instead, Diana and her sister were removed from home.
While her parents have made mistakes, Diana says they are her best friends. She stresses the importance of courts supporting visitation, especially with incarcerated parents, “because not only does it make the child happy but it also reminds the incarcerated parent what they are living for.”
Today, Diana is a psychology major in college and hopes to help children who are going through the same experiences she once did. Read Diana’s story.
“My mom accepts me as who I am and not a damaged or angry kid that I was with my dad or aunt or in the system. Being taken from mom traumatized me, even though I was placed with kin, because I wanted to be with my mom.”
Terrell was removed from home, and separated from his siblings, when his mother was arrested. He first went to live with his father, then his aunt, then he was sent to a program for older youth.
He recounts his feelings of not feeling heard by the adults on his case, and struggling with anger, especially when adults would speak badly of his mother or try to “replace” her.
Terrell was reunified with his mother at 17. She is his best friend and inspiration. He hopes to become an engineer one day. Read Terrell’s story.
Indira & Titus
“I had so many questions and no one had answers. No one knew where my mother was and worried about her.” – Titus
“My mom tried hard to keep us happy and she stayed with him to keep us happy and to have a home. When they took us away, they should have seen how she was pushing to get us back and how determined she was to show them she could be a good supportive parent away from my stepfather.” – Indira
Indira and Titus are siblings who were separated from each other in foster care. As children, they were powerless to decide what happened to them or where they lived.
Even though they were eventually reunified, they are still troubled by their time in the system, and by witnessing the lack of support and resources for their mother. Now as adults, they’re hoping those who work with children in foster care can learn from their stories. Read Indira’s and Titus’s stories.
Get more true stories, information and resources around reunification on the ABA website.