In the child welfare community, June is recognized and celebrated as National Reunification Month. When a child is removed from their home due to abuse or neglect, reunification occurs when it is determined that the child may safely return to their family or caregiver of origin. The goal in child welfare is to create or identify a safe, loving, permanent home in which a child can grow and thrive, with preference being in strengthening and restoring families. Safe reunification is always our priority at Fairfax CASA, for each case we receive from the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Children love their parents and feel connected to their families. They are overall happier with their families of origin. When successfully and safely reunified, children are also less likely to re-enter the child welfare system, especially when the family has been provided crucial services and counseling. Our CASA volunteers advocate for children to return to their homes when it is their best interest because they understand that strong families create strong communities.
In the United States, reunification is extremely common in child welfare cases. According to ChildWelfare.Gov’s most recently available statistics, 49% of cases in the country end with a child reunified with their original family or caregiver. During Fairfax CASA’s last fiscal year (July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020) 124 children saw their cases close with 22 children seeing their cases end through reunification. In Virginia, only 26% of child welfare cases ended with reunification, significantly lagging behind national statistics based on information from the Virginia Poverty Law Center. There is certainly room for improvement in our Commonwealth to ensure that all children who can safely be reunified with their families of origin are given that gift. Here are a few ways we believe we can do just that:
- Work on child abuse and neglect prevention to aid families and children before a crisis or trauma occurs
- Focus on family strengths and
- Continue to broaden trauma-informed care and services to ensure a holistic approach to family healing.