Reunification Month: A Wellpoint Care Network Success Story
June is National Reunification Month.
This month, we recognize the efforts made to help families stay together. It is also a time to honor those who have overcome obstacles in order to provide a safe and loving home for their children.
At Wellpoint Care Network, we believe that the goal of foster care is to provide temporary care for a child. Foster parents and kinship caregivers keep children safe and meet their ongoing needs until they can return home to their birth parents.
“We know that keeping those connections are important to children,” said Laura Halonen-Schultz, Program Manager for Foster and Kinship Care at Wellpoint Care. “We want kids to be with their families if they can. We want them to be where they want to be. For the most part, that’s where they want to be.”
Meet the Johnsons
One family happy to be reunited is the Johnson Family.
In February of 2021, Rachael Johnson’s two kids — Ben (4) and Aubrey (2) — were taken from her and put into foster care after child abuse was suspected by an unknown maltreater.
“That was honestly probably the hardest thing I’m ever going to have to go through in my entire life,” said Johnson. “You don’t really realize how bad it is until they’re not there anymore.”
But Johnson used that as motivation to work hard and work towards getting her children back.
“Rachael worked her butt off,” said Kristina Hinnawi, case manager at Wellpoint Care. “She was extremely compliant with me. She did every single visitation. She didn’t miss anything, and she pled guilty for the child abuse charge. She said, ‘I will become a felon, I don’t care. Even though I didn’t do it, I will if this is what it takes to get my kids back.’”
“It was just really hard for me,” added Johnson. “They were gone for almost two years. I missed two birthdays. I missed holidays.”
Working together towards one goal
Johnson says one thing that helped was a supportive foster mom.
“She definitely had my back in my effort to get my kids home. She wanted them home just as much as I wanted them to be home.”
At Wellpoint Care, we embrace the concept of foster-biological shared parenting. We work with foster parents to build and maintain relationships to support reunification.
“When we had court, [the foster mom] advocated for Rachael,” said Hinnawi. “She said, ‘These kids love their mom, they want nothing but their mom, they cry for their mom.’ She was a very big support and she advocated for her and she helped her as much as she could.”
Together Again at last
That support came in handy in October of 2022, when the court granted reunification, allowing the children to return to Johnson’s care.
“I think I must have cried all day, but the happiest tears,” she said. “That was probably the best feeling that you will ever have in your whole life is just knowing that they’re back with you.”
“It’s extremely rewarding,” added Hinnawi. “That is the whole point of our job. We want kids to go back to parents. That is our number one goal.”
Eight months post-reunification, Johnson has a message for other parents who may be going through a similar situation.
“Don’t give up it. It is not easy, and it is not for the weak-hearted, but don’t give up. Don’t ever stop trying.”
For information on the Child & Family Well-Being services offered by Wellpoint Care Network, click here.