Reunified Families Gather for Celebratory Picnic

By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Juvenile justice professionals and advocates came together re­cently to celebrate the hard work and success of many area families who have been reunited.

The 10th annual Summer Family Picnic, held last Friday at the Omaha Children’s Museum, was put on by CASA for Douglas County, the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County and oth­ers who work alongside families that brought their children home after a separation.

Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Doug Johnson said reunifica­tion often does not get the spotlight, but it’s the aim of the juvenile jus­tice system whenever it’s in the best interest of a child.

Often, families end up interact­ing with the juvenile justice sys­tem because of mental health and substance abuse issues, which care linked to domestic violence, failing relationships, job loss, substandard housing and other issues that affect children.

“When you get to what the real issue is and you offer that assis­tance, they get better,” Johnson said. “Then they start taking on their responsibilities as a parent.”

The key is treating those parents respectfully and looking for ways to help solve problems.

Kayla Broksle, an advocate su­pervisor with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Douglas County, said more than a thousand families are reunified each year, between court-involved and non-court families working with child welfare agencies.

Families were able to explore the museum, play games and enjoy time together while also catching up with volunteers and profession­als that they may have met through the juvenile justice and child wel­fare. Food was also served, allow­ing for a stress-free evening pro­moting togetherness.

Nick Juliano, director of regional advocacy and public policy at Boys Town, said the picnic was orga­nized for reunified families to offer a celebration and advocacy event similar to Adoption Day. It recog­nizes that many families are reuni­fied in the community.

“Families that go through court and work with agencies have dif­ficulties, but they overcome those,” Juliano said. “We’re celebrating their ability to be back together.”

CASA for Douglas County rents the museum, provides food and organizes the event, Juliano said. Douglas County Probation, Boys Town, PromiseShip, Girl Scouts and other child welfare organiza­tions also support the annual picnic.

“There are so many success sto­ries,” Juliano said.

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