June is National Reunification Month, celebrating the successful reunification of families who have returned to safety and health thanks to Child Welfare Services interventions and community providers and a lot of hard work.
This year, Partners in Development Foundation’s Hui Ho‘omalu program had the privilege of witnessing some of these effort come to fruition as Kaua‘i resident Estrella Barnett regained custody of her daughter Alexi after being separated by CWS in August 2016. Looking back, Barnett says there are days it all feels like a dream. While their journey has not been an easy one, it has been fueled by determination, commitment, and love.
After Barnett and Alexi were separated, Barnett went into rehab on the mainland for four months to do the personal work of shifting priorities. When she returned to Kaua‘i she could no longer live with her parents who were fostering Alexi, and so had to find a place of her own. She found a new job, attended daily AA/NA meetings as required by CWS, and had regular visits with Alexi under CWS supervision.
Although at first her family distrusted her and didn’t believe she had changed, Barnett stayed committed to her path of recovery so she could be reunited with her daughter. “Life is not easy,” she says. “It’s hard and I couldn’t have got here without my family and without God.