Reframing How We Talk About Families

By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO

June is National Reunification Month! Join us as we reflect upon and honor the people and practices that support families and help make it possible for them to safely stay together, despite challenges.

What is reunification? To put it simply, it means a child returns home to their family of origin after a time in foster care. We know that children do better when they can stay connected with their families of origin, and that reunification, when safe and possible, is the best possible outcome.

Foster care is not meant to be a permanent situation for children. In fact, it’s highly traumatizing for children to be separated from their parents and placed with strangers, no matter the circumstances or actions that brought the child welfare system into their lives in the first place. Children feel a real sense of grief and loss when they’re removed from their home and caregivers.

Many parents who lose custody of their children do so because they are grappling with their own trauma—things like generational poverty, mental health problems, addiction, and even, in many cases, their own experiences in foster care. The majority of parents love their children and want to be able to live with them safely, but circumstances are sometimes stacked against them.

It is much more likely that reunification will be successful when parents have the right type of help, access to needed services, and support from loved ones. Through compassionate, strengths-based advocacy, CASA volunteers can make a huge difference. Take this true story as an example.

Ava and Aiden, aged 18 months and newborn, were removed from home because their parents, Taylor and Gabriel, were struggling with substance use.* At the first family meeting for their kids’ case, Taylor and Gabriel were very distraught and said they had no one who would come to the meetings. They said their relationships with their siblings were broken, and the grandparents were angry with the situation so they wouldn’t come either.

Ava and Aiden’s CASA volunteer and the caseworker did the Connectedness Map with Taylor and Gabriel, and both parents identified other siblings and other family members that may come. By the fourth meeting, several siblings, a grandmother and the foster mother were all in attendance to support the them. Additionally, Taylor and Gabriel had completed all services, attended AA and had been clean for over 6 months. They never missed any visits with the children because siblings helped provide rides, family members helped to make improvements to the home and provided Ava and Aiden with beds and clothing. The team agreed to start transitioning the children home!

Every child and family deserves a dedicated CASA volunteer who will advocate fiercely for the support and resources they need, so that they can heal and thrive as a reunited family.

In this edition of The CASA Voice, we spotlight stories from the American Bar Association’s Reunification Month campaign, featuring the voices of young people with lived experience. The stories are as complicated as they are powerful, shedding light on the fact that the foster care system has a long way to go to ensure that children and families are heard and supported. And on our latest episode of The Fix, Equity and Inclusion Consultant Tanya Rollins speaks on how we can work together to reimagine a system that truly works for all, and does not replicate racial disproportionality.

In addition, with June being LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Texas CASA reaffirms our commitment to our goal of ensuring the highest quality advocacy possible for all children and families in the child protection system, and calls on more members of the LGBTQ+ community to advocate for LGBTQ+ young people.

And last but not least, we spotlight a very special family, with CASA volunteers spanning three generations!

During this month and all year long, Texas CASA stands firm in our commitment to support local CASA programs, families and all those helping create a more just, family-centered foster care system.

Thank you for all that you do,

*Names changed for privacy.