FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - The Forrest County Youth Court celebrated National Reunification Month with a picnic at Town Square Park in Hattiesburg Tuesday.
According to the American Bar Association, National Reunification Month recognizes the people and efforts around the country that help families to stay together.
Youth Court Judge Carol Jones Russell said the court wants to celebrate the families that have reunited after having their children removed from their home due to difficult circumstances.
“It just makes me feel so happy for these families,” said Russell. “It is a traumatic experience for a family to have to be separated, particularly for the children. So, when they are reunited, the children with their parents or guardians, there’s nothing more celebratory than that within itself.”
Russell said nearly 20 families and the public were invited to the picnic. Unfortunately, the picnic ended early due to rain. However, Russell said she couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.
She said all the families worked hard to build themselves up, and the children have since been returned home.
“We’re just celebrating them,” said Russell. “Our community wraps our arms around them, and we hope that this is first of many to come.”
Children attending the picnic ranged between ages 0 to 20 years old. Russell said on average families are separated two to three years.
“There are some families that took a while to get there but they got there,” said Russell. “That’s what we want to celebrate.”
The social workers involved with several of the cases also attended the picnic.
“The Forrest County Youth Court appreciates the work of our social workers,” said Russell." These are the people that go in the houses in the middle of the night and have to investigate these allegations of abuse or neglect. They are on the front line, and we could not appreciate them more."
Child Protective Services and other service providers that had a direct impact on the families were also invited.