In 2008, Miami held its first celebration for families who had successfully reunified after being involved in the child welfare system. The child welfare agency leaders recognized that while the child welfare system regularly celebrates adoptions, little is done to recognize the work of parents and child welfare professionals when a family reunifies.
Substance abuse treatment providers lead the effort to organize the event and it took place at a program facility where mothers in treatment can live with their children. Parents who had been through recovery spoke about their healing process and as part of the celebration, parents received “Hero to My Child” certificates. It was an emotional and happy occasion – parents, children, social workers and service providers were all able to celebrate the success of reunited families and those on the path to recovery.
By 2011, the reunification celebrations had spread throughout the state and will be taking place in the month of May, close to Mother’s Day. Florida now has around a dozen events. Each county arranges their own celebration. For example, one county had a reunification picnic, inviting reunified families and anyone who helped the family through the reunification process, including foster parents. In another, event planners hosted a reunification celebration at the court house and involved the guardians ad litem, who typically work closely with the family.
The Florida Department of Children and Families is providing support to the counties that are planning reunification celebrations and is helping with outreach to the media. Also, as part of the state-wide effort, the governor has signed a Reunification Proclamation. Planners are excited about the national movement and are working to ensure the events’ success in Florida.
For more information about the Florida reunification celebrations, please contact Saundra F. Roach .