For over a decade, the child welfare community has celebrated June as National Reunification Month. The American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law and other national partners created the National Reunification Month in 2010, as the most desirable and positive legal permanency option for children. According to recent data, reunifications is the permanency option achieved by most children in the child welfare system.
Reunification month is an incredible opportunity for the child welfare system to commit to resource families and children’s parents working together to provide children and youth with the critical love and support they need. It is an opportunity to use the compassion and skills of resource families across the country to encourage and promote safe reunification, where possible, and to remain engaged with children and parents after reunification to provide ongoing support.
On average, Trinity Youth Services successfully reunifies over 30 families each year. We join with thousands of professionals, foster parents and organizations to promote, celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of family reunification to children in foster care. We recognize the people and efforts around the country that help families to stay together and support the child welfare community:
- To celebrate the accomplishments of families who have overcome an array of challenges to reunify safely and successfully.
- To recognize the vital role that community partners – including mental health and substance abuse providers, courts and judges, foster parents and others – play in helping to reunify, strengthen and support families.
- To inspire other parents – particularly those going through the recovery process – that it is possible to confront and resolve the issues that led to their separation, and to reunify with their children.
All children need the care, love, security and stability of family unity, including parents, siblings, grandparents and other extended family members to provide them with a solid foundation for personal growth, development, maturity and happiness.
John Neiuber, President of the Board
John is the former CEO of Trinity Youth Services and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSUSB. He is a veteran and received the Army Commendation Medal. John was a teacher, union president, assistant principal, principal, and district office administrator in the public schools, and a management and leadership consultant to public agencies and private industry. He is the former CEO of Advanced Education Services, establishing and operating nonpublic and charter schools. John was recognized by the Center for Entrepreneurship as the winner of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016. He is an active volunteer in his community, having served on city and county commissions. He is currently the Chairman of the Children’s Foundation of America and writes a monthly history column for the local newspaper.
There are many memorable experiences that occur for social workers over their time serving in foster care. One such occurrence that comes up is when a biological parent is distressed with the removal of their child who is placed into the foster care system. There are many reasons this takes place including substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness or neglect of the child. Whatever the reason for the child’s removal, it is for their safety and in their best interest. This can be devastating, not only for the child, but also for the parent and biological family.
The purpose of foster care is to provide a temporary safe place until a permanent solution can be achieved through reunification with family, adoption, or emancipation. It is the hope and responsibility of foster care agencies and foster parents to ensure every opportunity for reunification is attempted. At Trinity Youth Services, we deeply hope and root for biological families to change the circumstances necessary to reunify children with their family. We look to foster parents to help by getting youth to and from visitation meetings with biological families, attending family meetings, and utilizing mental health and counseling services.
It is very important that all parties maintain respect and compassion for one another for the sake of the child. It is also important to understand what the birth parent is going through, listen to their feelings and remember they are deserving of respect and a chance to be reunited with their child if it is safe to do so. Until then, we make certain that biological parents know we do everything to ensure the safety and well-being of their child.
If reunification cannot be achieved, their parental rights will be terminated and the child will be available for adoption. Our goal is to provide the child with the best permanent solution as soon as possible so they may have a chance to heal from the trauma experienced in their life and find the normalcy they long for.
This process isn’t always easy and our social workers certainly have had to form a thick skin to effectively and compassionately communicate with upset birth parents, but this work is rewarding. We often hear from families long after a child has been in our care regarding their progress and how, ultimately, the experience changed their life for the better. Our reward is knowing a child is safe and leading a stable life. Years later, we get phone calls and letters of gratitude about our genuine concern for everyone involved. It’s stories like these that make it all worthwhile.
Jenelle Phillips, Director of Development
Jenelle’s role is to identify and access resources for youth in our care. She is also responsible for maintaining a distinctive look and voice for Trinity through our online presence, media and community outreach. Before joining the Trinity team in 2016, Jenelle worked in the newspaper/magazine industry for nearly a decade as an award-winning graphic designer, photographer, writer and editor. Jenelle earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at California State University Fullerton. Jenelle is very involved in the community and is active in her church.