AZ Dept. of Child Safety works to reunite families: 'Always try to reunify them'

The Arizona Department of Child Safety is hitting impressive milestones when it comes to reuniting parents and their children.

The department is working to bridge the gap when it comes to parents being reunited with their children. This was the case for Crystal Garduno who lost her three kids at the time due to a domestic violence situation.

"I was very hurt from five years of being in a really horrible situation, and you know, my kids were there, so they were going through it as well," she said.

Garduno turned to family treatment court – a program that's designed for parents with a history of substance abuse to reunite with their children.

"Our primary goal when we remove children is to always try to reunify them with their families. We provide support to the birth parents with the primary caregiver so we're able to be successful with parenting their children," Tanya Abdellatif with the Arizona Department of Child Safety said.

The program has a reunification rate of 94%.

Garduno is a product of that success.

"Family treatment court was so amazing that they treated me like an equal. Something just shifted being in front of another judge and her looking at me as though you've made mistakes, that's all. What are we doing about it now?" Garduno said.

She is now a parent ally for the family treatment court.

About 8,000 children are still in the care of DCS, and the department needs foster families.

"Foster care is temporary. It is not meant to be long term. We want to reunify children with their families, so we need to partner with foster families who are also going to be cheerleaders and champions and supporters for our birth families," Abdellatif said.