Berkshire County's Reunification Day celebrates families once separated by DCF, now reunited
PITTSFIELD — Jose Miranda spent six months jailed in Boston, facing deportation to his native El Salvador and trying to prevent his son, Eli, from being taken away permanently and put up for adoption.
Now, after navigating a more than two-year process dealing with both the court and immigration systems, Miranda is able to stay in the country he's called home for 19 years and has been reunited with his son, who will turn six later this month.
"Finally they gave him back to me in February 2016," Miranda said. "Things have been going excellent; he's a happy boy."
Miranda and his son were one of three families recognized Tuesday at Berkshire County's Reunification Day event, celebrating families who have been separated for a period of time while working with the state Department of Children and Families, but who have been able to successfully reunite with their children.
This is the second biennial celebration of Berkshire families reunifying. The American Bar Association began recognizing June as National Reunification Month in 2010 as a way to acknowledge the efforts of families who have overcome challenges in order to reunify with their children.
"Today, we celebrate the greatness of families being together," said Colleen White Holmes, president and CEO of Berkshire Children and Families. "And today is one of those super special days."
"Every day in courts throughout the state, children are returning home to their parents after days, months or even years of foster care," said Committee for Public Counsel Services Deputy Chief Counsel Michael Dsida. "Most people don't realize this, but most children who go into foster care do go home."
"Reunification is a special moment and a special triumph," said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
Farley-Bouvier spoke in favor of spending the state's child welfare budget differently, concentrating on things like after-school programs, summer camps, quality housing and transportation assistance, rather than spend those dollars on the back end once families are embroiled in the DCF and court systems.
"It seems like we wait and spend all that money after we divide families," Farley-Bouvier said.
"It's a privilege to meet these heroes, and holding this Reunification Day celebration is our way to celebrate these beautiful families," said Judge Joan M. McMenemy, First Justice of the Berkshire Juvenile Court. "We honor you here today for all your strength and your courage and the hard work that you do."
Miranda said navigating the immigration system while being separated from his son was the hardest part of becoming a family once again.
"I had to prove to immigration that I was a good guy, a good father," Miranda said. "I wasn't going to leave this little kid behind."
"I wanted to stay and take care of my son," he added.
Victoria Bleier, a member of the Committee for Public Counsel Services' Children and Family Law Division, said she helped represent Miranda in his legal matters and called him and his son, "a family that truly deserves to be recognized for their efforts," and described Miranda himself as "one of the nicest, most hard-working clients I've ever had the privilege to represent."
The families were each presented with gifts as well as citations presented by a representative of Sen. Adam Hinds' office.
"The bigger the distance between us, the longer the time we are apart, the more we have to overcome to come back together, the more special it feels when we get to reclaim each other," said Holmes.
"What I hope always ... the daily grind is never so big that we forget just how sweet it is to share walks and rides, talks and inside jokes and the knowledge that you've got people who are waiting and glad that you've come home once again," Holmes said.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
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