In addition to being Pride Month, June is Reunification Month, a time to recognize the efforts of social workers and caring individuals who help families stay together. In honor of Reunification Month, we would like to highlight a happy story that resulted from the hard work of our Family Support & Stabilization staff.
The “Nunez” family is very small: just a mom, “Mary,” and her young daughter “Andrea”. Thirteen months ago, the state’s goal for Andrea was to separate her from Mary and place her for adoption. The family came to CFCS’s attention because our FSS program was facilitating their supervised visits. When we first met Mary, we noticed she didn’t feel comfortable or safe in our space – she would often get upset, and she refused to follow some of the rules we set for the visits. Instead of letting Mary be frustrated and not trying to change how she experienced her visits with Andrea, two FSS social workers, Queila and Thara, started taking the time to get to know her.
Queila started to notice that if she made small changes to the structure of Mary’s visits with Andrea, Mary would feel more comfortable – the less formal and clinical the visits felt, the more relaxed Mary felt. Queila and Thara also modeled good parenting behaviors for Mary, which she started to pick up on and successfully practice. Instead of imposing certain standards on Mary from the beginning and snubbing her when she didn’t meet them, Queila and Thara had taken the time to meet Mary where she was at.
One of the biggest accommodations we made for Mary was allowing her to speak in her native language to Andrea during the last 15 minutes of each supervised visit. Typically, supervised visits are required to be conducted in English so that social workers can understand what parents are saying to their children. This language requirement frustrated Mary, as she believed strongly that her child should know her native language. Because we have staff at CFCS who speak multiple languages, we were able to let Mary speak in her native language during the last part of her visits with Andrea and still monitor how the visits were going between mother and daughter. This compromise helped Mary feel more comfortable and supported, and it also meant she would agree to speak English for the other 45 minutes of each visit. It helped build trust between Mary and CFCS.
Mary responded positively to Queila and Thara, who worked diligently with her for months. Mary came to see CFCS as a safe space where she could learn good strategies to parent her child in a supportive environment.
Queila and Thara were not the only ones who noticed Mary’s positive changes. The state court changed its opinion on her case, and now, Andrea will not be separated from her mom. Instead, the new goal for the Nunez family is for mom and daughter to be reunified!
Mary is now signed up for FSS services. She is improving her skills as a parent, and Queila and Thara are continuing to support her as she prepares to reunify with her daughter.
Everyone is capable of change; we see it every day in our work. And we believe that every parent wants the best for their child, regardless of where they are in their own lives. When we can help a parent to grow, so they can solve problems and create a safer home for their families, that’s one of the best parts of our job.