Families Organizing for Child Welfare Justice and the Family Defense Center celebrated our 7th Annual National Reunification Day on June 11, 2016. National Reunification Day honors the reunification of families who have been separated by the child welfare system. The celebration shared stories from families impacted by the child welfare system and encouraged affected individuals to become advocates for change.
National Reunification Day, held on June 6, 2015, celebrated the reunification of families impacted by child welfare intervention, and encouraged parents and advocates to turn their stories into solutions. Family Defense Center parent advocate Suzanne Sellers and Legal Assistance Foundation board member Kevin Brown led a discussion about how they have used their own personal stories to advocate for systemic change and help others. Then, participants practiced telling their stories to each other, and parents who were personally affected by child welfare intervention were recognized.
In the past, National Reunification Day hosted by the Family Defense Center has served to celebrate family reunification and preservation in the face of adversity, especially from the child welfare system. We want to celebrate reunification and promote parents, family members, and those negatively affected by the system to become advocates for change. In keeping with this goal, we held a National Reunification Day program on June 7, 2014, at the Logan Square Library in Chicago. The program was as follows:
Welcome by Diane Redleaf, FDC Executive Director, Nationally Recognized Child and Family Advocate
MONOLOGUE PERFORMANCE: “My Life” by Suzanne Sellers
PARENT PANEL: The Journey to Becoming an Advocate
Michelle Weidner, Advocate on Medical Accountability
Suzanne Sellers, Advocate for Parental Rights
Kim Tice, Advocate for Incarcerated Mothers
BREAKOUT DISCUSSION GROUP: The Tools You Need for your Advocacy Journey
Closing Remarks by Angela Inzano, Staff Attorney/Policy Coordinator
National Reunification Day celebration was held on June 15, 2013, at Holy Trinity High School in Chicago. The National Reunification Day program combines celebration with education and advocacy. Through this event, we hope to empower and inspire other parents, showing them that it is possible to confront and resolve the issues that led to their separation and to reunify with their children. In keeping with this goal, we hosted a panel of parents who shared their stories of separation and reunification. We also honored the many professionals who support families in their quest to reunite. The program featured former Juvenile Court Judge Joan Marie Kubalanza as the keynote speaker, a workshop led by clinical psychologist Phyllis Rubin of Theraplay, a panel of parents who shared their personal stories of separation and reunification, and a Parent Café led by Be Strong Families. There were many activities for children too, including storytelling and Peruvian dancing.
National Reunification Day celebrates the reunification of families after separation by the child welfare system. The event was held on June 2, 2012, at the Menomonee Club in Chicago. The theme was TELLING YOUR STORIES OF SEPARATION & REUNIFICATION. The event featured:
Welcome by Diane Redleaf, FDC Executive Director and Nationally Recognized Child and Family Advocate;
Opening Remarks by ANDREA ZOPP, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Urban League;
Panel of parents sharing their stories of separation and reunification moderated by Dr. Sandy Goldberg, veteran Health and Nutrition Contributor on NBC 5 Chicago and founder of A Silver Lining Foundation;
Workshop led by author and advocate Toni Hoy: “Writing Your Story: From the Trench”;
Workshop led by Ramona Randall and Gregory Cox, co-authors of the book, The Parents’ Get Real Guide to Getting Your Kids Back;
Session for families led by Phyllis Rubin of the Theraplay Institute that helps build attachment and bonding;
Children’s program, including a magician, face painters, games, and a dance performance by Trinity Irish Dancers.
The Family Defense Center hosted a National Reunification Day celebration in Chicago on May 21st, 2011. Diane Redleaf, the executive director of the Family Defense Center, spoke regarding the importance of Camreta v. Greene, the first child welfare case to be heard by the United States Supreme Court in 21 years. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Nikki Lively presented on the effects of separation from siblings and family on children. Attendees also heard the personal story of a former Family Defense Center client whose family was recently reunified.
Endorsed by the American Bar Association’s Children and the Law Center, National Reunification Day started in Iowa as a way to recognize the importance of family reunification after families are separated by child protection authorities. For many families, the achievement of reunification requires overcoming many personal as well as bureaucratic obstacles. Families need to celebrate their own achievements as well has focus on helping others to heal. Click to view photos from the event.
The Family Defense Center hosted the first ever National Reunification Day celebration in Chicago on June 19, 2010. Endorsed by the American Bar Association’s Children and the Law Center, National Reunification Day started in Iowa as a way to recognize the importance of family reunification after families are separated by child protection authorities. For many families, the achievement of reunification requires overcoming many personal as well as bureaucratic obstacles. Families need to celebrate their own achievements as well has focus on helping others to heal.
Families involved with the Family Defense Center made National Reunification Day an advocacy/organizing conference as well as a celebration. Karl Dennis, long-time director of Kaleidoscope Inc. and one of the original designers of WrapAround services to keep children in their homes and communities was the keynote speaker. Prof. Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds, The Color of Child Welfare, was the lunchtime speaker. Workshops including “Healing after Reunification,” “A Lawyer’s View of Reunification,” and panel on “Parent Experiences” were offered. Lunch, singing and activities for children made the day fun, educational and inspiring.
Co-sponsors included Chicago Legal Aid for Incarcerated Mothers and the Northwestern Child and Family Justice Center.