June is National Reunification Month. It celebrates families that reunite. And it celebrates the people who help families’ reunification goals.
Meet James McKnight. And learn how he worked with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to reunite with his three children.
“I told my children, ‘This is not your story. What you’ve just gone through is just a part of it. So, now, it’s up to you if you want this to be a chapter, a sentence, or a paragraph in your story. Ultimately, the good in life will outweigh the bad,’” said McKnight.
To honor parents like McKnight, DHS recognizes June as National Reunification Month. This month celebrates the people and efforts around the country that help families stay together and reunify after involvement with the child welfare system.
In March 2021, McKnight’s world shifted. DHS informed him that his children were in custody. The agency discovered that the children were living in uninhabitable and unsafe conditions. McKnight also learned that his children hadn’t been attending school. The children’s godparents assumed custody as kinship caregivers. They lived in Delaware. McKnight immediately sprang into action to gain primary custody. He was willing to sacrifice everything to reunify his family.
Every week, McKnight traveled from Philadelphia to Delaware. He logged many miles to check on his children. He reassured them that he was on a journey to bring them back home. By June 2021, he was able to make good on his promise. McKnight succeeded with DHS-funded program support.
“I looked at everyone as a village. It’s not just me now. It’s not just me with my children. It’s all of us together,” said McKnight. “I was able to take financial and housing classes to help create action steps.”
McKnight found a house in a dream neighborhood. There, he provides his children with a safe space to be a family. Together they learn, grow, and prosper. They cook, study, and ride bikes.
“The change from day one is huge. They’re starting to open up emotionally. I’m their best friend, their therapist, their everything in their hearts, but I remind them that I’m just your dad. They look at me like a superhero,” said McKnight.