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15th annual Sibling Reunion Picnic brings joy to foster children

Arizona Department of Child Safety investigations on decline
Posted at 10:10 PM, Oct 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 14:28:58-04

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A celebration of love and togetherness— that was the motto, brought to life, for the 15th annual Sibling Reunion Picnic.

In total, 35 foster siblings were able to meet at the event, as separation is sadly common for siblings in state custody.

In fact, brothers and sisters who enter foster care often don’t live together, but today made things a little easier for them.

Joan Wagener, a Superior Court Judge in the Juvenile Division, says it was a beautiful event.

“Every single sibling group gets a portrait. They’ll play basketball, meet therapy dogs, courthouse dogs, law enforcement, Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Tucson Police Department, Tucson Fire Department,” said Judge Wagener.

She even took it a step further, saying the event even helped change the children’s perspectives on law enforcement officers.

“Oftentimes for these kids, their experience with law enforcement is often in the context of their removal or of their parent or caregiver’s arrest. And so this really changes the dynamics for these kids,” she told KGUN9.

Now they get to see officers and first responders in a different way.

“We like to be out here and let them climb on our motorcycles and let them interact with us and see that we’re not the bad guys,” said Judge Wagener.

However, Judge Wagener assured it hasn’t always been fun and games for these kids.

“The bulk of the children that enter our foster care system are as a result of neglect. Oftentimes that neglect is as a result of parental substance abuse, because of domestic violence, because parents are just unable or unwilling to meet their needs,” the judge told KGUN9.

As of August, 2274 minors in Pima County are currently in out-of-home placement; this includes foster care, group homes, shelters, or emergency care homes-- that is according to the Arizona Department of Child Safety

“When kids enter the foster system they often aren’t placed with their siblings because of resource issues,” she added.

For more information on how you can help foster, click here.