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June 2023Vol. 24, No. 5Reunification is Worthy of Immeasurable Time, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

In a perfect world every family would have what it needs, whether that is concrete supports such as housing and cash, or even access to culturally appropriate mental health services. In that same perfect world, all families would stay together safely and be supported by their extended families and communities. That is a world in which foster care is obsolete. We don’t live in a perfect world, though, and while the first goal is always to keep families together, we don’t always reach that goal. The circumstances of family separation can be very unique, and they can also be eerily similar. In some of the eerily similar situations, too often we observe different outcomes for a family based on their demographic. 

A couple of months ago, there was a story in the news about a 4-year-old boy who wandered off into the woods with the family dog. It was unclear how far the child had gone but according to the news, he had been missing for an hour sometime after 7pm. They showed the state police body cameras at the moment they heard the dog barking, and the state police found the crying boy unharmed. They scooped him up and delivered him to his mother’s arms. I don’t know if the family is known to the child welfare system, but I didn’t get that impression. The story was not about any suspected neglectfulness on the part of his parents—it was about the rescue, the dog, and the reunification. Repeatedly that week, the news covered this story and showed the video of the young boy being reunited with his mother.

It's not lost on me why they covered it repeatedly—it’s a feel-good story of reunification. Everyone can participate in the happiness of seeing this unharmed child safely reunited with his parents after an uncertain journey into the woods that could have ended much differently. Children being reunited with their parents safely, after being separated for any period of time, is indeed worthy of immeasurable time on the airwaves.

Whenever children are reunited with their families—their parents, siblings, tribes, communities—something in our world shifts and becomes a little less imperfect. We get it right, when we are zealous in our pursuit to reunite unharmed children with their parents, after what is undoubtedly, their own uncertain journey into the woods. We can scoop them up and deliver them to their parent’s arms, and we do. Although we may not always get the same news coverage, each and every successful family reunification story is worthy of immeasurable time on the airwaves. Let’s celebrate our progress and share stories of family triumph during this National Reunification Month.