Dennis Berry - Advisory board for The CALL of Hot Spring & Garland Counties, Jamie Moran - DCFS Supervisor, Brandon Tittle - Sr. Program Manager for Every Child
Arkansas, Yalanda Alderson -Resource Supervisor DCFS
Dennis Berry - Advisory board for The CALL of Hot Spring & Garland Counties, Jamie Moran - DCFS Supervisor, Brandon Tittle - Sr. Program Manager for Every Child Arkansas, Yalanda Alderson -Resource Supervisor DCFSKendall Bruce

Foster Care Through the Lens of Reunification

In honor of Reunification Month, a panel of experts meet in Hot Springs to discuss the importance of working toward a common goal of reunification and the challenges that they face when doing so.

When a child is placed in foster care, what should the end goal be? What can our community members, the biological parents, and the foster family all be working toward together?

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, partners of the 100 Families Initiative discuss the importance of working toward a common goal of reunification and the challenges that they face when doing so.

Reunification happens when biological parents are able to meet the designated requirements for their children to safely return to live with them full-time. Reunification is a second chance for families to thrive together and one all of the 100 Families Initiative Partners are working toward.

As Jamie Moran, DCFS Supervisor states, "Reunification is a conversation we have from the beginning all the way to the end."

So then, why are not all parents able to reunite with their children?

According to Dennis Berry, member of the advisory board for the Call in Hot Springs and Garland County and long term foster parent, major barriers for families pursuing reunification include sobriety, housing, and lack of support.

"A lot of these families don't have families," says Berry concerning families' lack of support.

This is why parents who have their children removed require wrap around support from the community. If the parents are working alone toward reunification while everyone else has different priorities, there is little chance of reunification.

A lot of these families don't have families.
Dennis Berry, member of the advisory board for the Call in Hot Springs and Garland County and long term foster parent

One way a placement can improve outcomes for a family and increase the likelihood of reunification is by minimalizing the amount of displacement for the children. Brandon Tittle of Every Child Arkansas makes the point that by placing children in their county or even in their neighborhood, the supports and resources accessed during the foster care process remain long term resources for both the children and the parents.

Berry speaks from his personal experience as a foster parent as he talks about how encouraging it is to the children when their parents are doing well. Foster parents who encourage and support biological parents are helping the children and the whole family in the process.

The main thing is that community members are willing to work together toward this goal and not in competition with one another. Moran expresses how grateful she is to have the 100 Families Alliance in Garland County and the amount of collaboration it has made possible.

Smart Justice is a magazine, podcast, and continuing news coverage from the nonprofit Restore Hope and covers the pursuit of better outcomes on justice system-related issues, such as child welfare, incarceration, and juvenile justice. Our coverage is solutions-oriented, focusing on the innovative ways in which communities are solving issues and the lessons that have been learned as a result of successes and challenges. 

The podcast is available on all major podcasting platforms.

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