Monday, March 7, 2011

Two Family Reunification Stories

Haiti, One Year After the Earthquake
It's been nearly a year since I first arrived in Haiti to help lead the International Rescue Committee's efforts to reunite children and families who were separated by the 2010 earthquake. Many thousands of children lost their parents in the disaster, and thousands more lost contact with their living relatives in the chaos that followed.

The IRC went to work immediately following the quake, collaborating with the Haitian government and a network of international and local organizations to identify, find and register these separated children, to train Haitian social workers in family tracing, and to begin the complex, painstaking job of tracking down and reuniting these separated families.

One year later we've managed to reunify more than 1300 children with their families, and one year later I continue to be deeply impressed with the courage displayed by Haiti's youngest citizens.
City judge's defense of troubled families offends many caseworkers
To Judge Jimmie Edwards, the 800 St. Louis foster children technically in his legal guardianship are all "children" — be they babies with pacifiers or runaways with tattoos.

Sometimes he even calls them "my" children.

Edwards, 55, is only the second African-American to preside over a family court in St. Louis in 40 years. He grew up in the same segregated, poor neighborhoods as most of the city's foster children. And he's heartsick over the disproportionate number of minorities who have been removed from their families and put in foster care both locally and nationally. In Missouri, nearly 90 percent of the 9,100 children in foster care are black.

"Too often in this country we confuse neglect with poverty," he said last month in his office on the second floor of the city's Family Court building, which handles all cases involving city children in the care of the state Children's Division.

So if he's going to make long-term custody decisions regarding his foster children, he said, he's going to err on what's best for the child. And in most cases, he said, it's the hope that many will reunify with a parent and return to their natural family, even if those families currently are in profound disarray.

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