BY LIBBY SMITH / CBS COLORADO
According to the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, reunifying children with their families is the primary goal of the child welfare system. June is National Reunification Month, celebrating people who help reunify, strengthen, and support families who are involved with the child welfare system.
“The Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel protects parents rights around their children,” said Jill Cohen, Director of Programs at ORPC. “Making sure that parents who are involved with the child welfare system in Colorado and navigating the complicated court system have access to the best lawyers.”
The ORPC also coordinates social workers and parent advocates to support families in the child welfare system.
“The role of the parent advocate looks different in different situations,” said Nathaniel Bustamante a parent advocate. “At ORPC parent advocates are parents who have had their own involvement in the child welfare system, and have successfully reunified with their families and work now with the legal defense teams on child welfare cases to help amplify parents’ voices and help them along their journey.”
Bustamante and his wife, Brittany, have been parent advocates for about three years. They were featured in a video produced for Together Today, Stronger Tomorrow: A Reunification Celebration, held on June 14th, where they won Reunification Hero awards.The video chronicles the Bustamante’s struggles with drugs and incarceration which led to them losing their children, their journey to successfully reuniting with their children, and their calling to help other parents facing the same struggles.
“Now my wife and I both advocate for parents in an effort to reduce the amount of generational trauma that’s created when families are separated,” Bustamante said on CBS Colorado Mornings Live at 9 a.m.
Reunifying children with their families is the primary goal of the child welfare system, and having a team to support parents is an important component of that.
“Imagine that you are facing the worst time in your life, potential separation from your children, and you have a room full of judges, caseworkers, social workers, and attorneys who are sort of highlighting all the things that you failed to do. And now, you have a parent who’s on your team saying, ‘I’ve been here. I’ve been in this room. Not only what I successful in navigating the system, but I’m thriving and I can help you too,” Cohen explained.
About the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel (ORPC)
The Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel (ORPC) is an independent state agency that supports Colorado parents in the fight to preserve families in dependency and neglect cases. Since 2016, ORPC has protected the right to parent by recruiting and training attorneys statewide, advocating for family-centered policies, and promoting equity and transparency in the family regulation system through data. As a result of our work, more families are reunified and stronger together. Learn more at www.ColoradoORPC.org.
About the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families
The CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families is responsible for the coordination of quality and effective services for Colorado’s most vulnerable children, youth, and their families. The office supervises Colorado’s child welfare system and operates the state’s youth services system, as well as several other programs. Learn more at cdhs.colorado.gov.
About the Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative
The Office of the Child’s Representative (OCR) is the state agency mandated to provide competent and effective legal representation to children and youth involved in the Colorado court system. For more information, please visit www.coloradochildrep.org.
First published on June 30, 2023 / 12:17 PM
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