June is National Reunification Month, stressing the importance of helping vulnerable families stay together, and the American Bar Association (ABA) is honoring the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program’s Calvin Martin as a “Reunification Hero” – one of 11 nationally.
Martin is the Director of Program Advocacy and Inclusion for Guardian ad Litem’s Statewide Office, which represents abused, abandoned and neglected children in dependency court. The ABA recognizes Reunification Month as an annual reminder that many children can ultimately be reunited with their parents, given the right services and supports – which the GAL Program works to achieve.
“I want the child welfare system to look at reunification through the eyes of the child, as the ultimate goal for the system,” Martin says. “By creating a platform for the parent to be successful, the best interests of the child will be met.”
In announcing this year’s Reunification Heroes, the ABA noted that it takes “compassion and perseverance to keep families together.” Martin does this, in part, by providing training for case managers and child advocates about implicit bias within the child welfare system. He guides staff and volunteers to address their own biases when making decisions about removing children from their homes and reuniting them with their families. He also works to develop “a culture of encouragement” that alleviates barriers to reunification.
“By focusing on education and poverty, we can help parents succeed and ultimately reduce the number of kids in our care,” Martin says. “Many families can be safely reunited thanks to mental health or substance abuse treatment, parenting classes or batterer’s intervention programs.”
Martin also serves on the Governor’s Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council, which provides “annual recommendations to the Governor and Legislature that will encourage the government and the faith-based community to work together to improve social services for Floridians.” Zackary Gibson, the state’s Chief Child Advocate and Director of the Office of Adoption and Child Protection, says the council gives Martin more scope for his views on inclusion.
“We need a collective impact approach, where communities and government come together, and Calvin brings that,” Gibson says.
Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz says Martin’s recognition reflects on the entire Program. “Reunification is a process that allows a family to come back together and rebuild over time, and we are committed to keeping families together when it can be done safely. Calvin has a real heart for service, and I am glad to see his efforts recognized.”
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer, visit GuardianAdLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1425.