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A child shoots a ball on the Ball-istic Blasters game at the Omaha Children’s Museum while attending the 10th annual Summer Family Reunification Picnic on Friday, June 7, 2019.  (Photo by Scott Stewart)

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.
LEFT:  Snickers the therapy dog sits with owner Michelle Doner while greeting children and families visiting the Omaha Children’s Museum.  CENTER: A child plays with a series of tubes at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Families were invited to explore the museum’s many interactive exhibits. RIGHT: A child plays on an automotive test play area at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Interactive exhibits include opportnities to learn about science and explore career possibilities. (Photos by Scott Stewart)

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