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  • Trey Starnes

Clearing Up the Confusion: Everything You Need to Know About Reunification

What is reunification?

Reunification is the process of reuniting children (usually abandoned in an orphanage) with their biological family - priority is with the parent(s). Still, other biological relatives may also be an option should the situation require it. Foster care is the alternative option when biological reunification isn't an option. It is important to note (in Haiti) that all families undergo rigorous vetting in addition to training and education - all done by trained social workers and under the oversight and approval of IBESR - which is directly involved in the process.


What is Family Empowerment?

Family empowerment is the second part of a successful reunification process. Reunification doesn't end with placement in a home - empowerment programs create strategic follow-up plans that help address the family's needs while partnering with and equipping the family to help cultivate the capacity to become self-supporting and self-sustaining in the future. Every family is different, and their needs are different, so each family's support plan varies. The plan helps with business or agricultural training and provides food and housing assistance if needed and school tuition for the children. These are only a few examples of what a support plan might include.


What is Family Preservation?

Family preservation is the proactive side of reunification. Preservation aims to identify at-risk families and communities and come alongside them with empowerment initiatives and services to prevent crisis abandonment of children. Family preservation helps preclude much of the abandonment and institutional living trauma that reunified families and children must navigate.


Why family-based care?

We want to develop healthy, thriving children, and studies show the best way to help children thrive is to empower their families and communities. Studies reinforce what Scripture tells us: children were made to live in a healthy family unit. Even if an institutional model is operating at a high level of excellence, it cannot replicate the family unit. The benefits of living in a family from a social, emotional, and intellectual development perspective cannot be matched. Additionally, it costs 5-10 times less to keep a child in their family with support than it does to care for a child in an orphanage. Here are some additional links with further information:

Will the children be safe?

The vetting process is very rigorous and involves IBESR and a supporting agency. Each representative has a separate set of protocols to qualify a family as the representatives work together. The supporting agency submits independent reports based on counseling, assessments, home visits, etc. The IBESR rep does the same. At any point, IBESR can disqualify a family or waitlist them pending more training and additional assessments. The process also mandates regular home visits by social workers and protection agents once the children are placed in a home. IBESR receives all reports and attends the visits regularly, again with the authority to disqualify the family immediately. Additional support and training is provided for children with special needs. GLA does not disengage from the child or family at any part of this process, and we take the safety of the children very seriously.


Why did you arrive at this change?

The Board of Directors and leadership staff became increasingly concerned with the slowdown in international adoption and the long tenure of some of our children. We recognized that we were responsible for developing thriving children who would grow into mature, self-supporting adults. In light of this reality and some of our children approaching teen years, we began to explore the best option to prepare them for adulthood. Family-based care is superior in all areas of development, but it also prepares children to live in a world outside of orphanage walls. It also places children back into a dynamic where they observe family relationships and integrate into Haitian culture.


How will this change child sponsorship?

Child Sponsorship will change to family scholarship - you will continue to receive updates, but they will be about the impact your generosity is having on the family. Family scholarship is a great way to expand your impact on families and communities in Haiti, guaranteeing economic, relational, and educational access.


How do you develop the support plans?

Trained and experienced social workers develop custom support plans after extensive research, home visits, counseling, and more. Their recommendations are designed to offer adequate support while partnering with the family. The goal is never to create dependency but to empower the family as equals, requiring obligations and commitments from the family throughout the process. The ultimate goal is to see the family graduate to self-sufficiency.


What kind of training do parents receive?

The family training is wide-ranging, and some families receive additional training depending on their circumstances. Some of the topics covered include:

  1. Child Protection and children's rights

  2. Child Care (hygiene and nutrition)

  3. Parental Responsibility

  4. Consequences of separation on children

  5. Prevention of violence and parenting without violence

  6. Business Training

  7. Community workshops to generate community support

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