Michigan Reunification Day celebrates families regaining custody of children

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LANSING (WJRT) - (06/11/2018) - The Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing served as a place of celebration on Monday.

Two newly reunited families were honored at the third annual Michigan Reunification Day.

One of the hardest things to go through as a parent is losing custody of a child. But fighting to regain that custody can be even harder.

The Michigan Supreme Court honored two families from Saginaw and Bay County who had done just that.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement, who serves as the liaison for child welfare, said the court started this event three years ago to reward families who overcome their struggles.

"What we are trying to do is highlight that it is the No. 1 goal, when appropriate and possible," said Clement.

Michigan is one of 27 states that hold Reunification Day events. The American Bar Association's Center of Children and the Law have designated June as National Reunification Month to celebrate families and the many professionals who help successfully return children home from foster care.

One of those honored was Joshua Praay of Saginaw, who was overcome with emotions.

"I'm grateful, happy, overjoyed. I was a little scared and apprehensive," said Praay

But he didn't have to go through it alone. Angalee Bertrand and Praay have been together eight years and Bertrand said opening up and accepting help from others was a challenge at first but paid off.

"A lot of time we like to take our will back and do things our way and just trusting that other people genuinely cared to help us achieve a common goal was a good feeling," said Bertrand.

Praay said it was a wake-up call for him when he was lying there in the hospital after a relapse nearly cost him his life last June.

The judge asked him one simple question, what did he want more? His children or the drugs? Praay knew his answer and hasn't looked back.

"I got out and just hit the ground running,” said Praay. “I didn't look back. I started to get engaged with the community and with my support networks, my sponsor and by doing that I was able to stay focused on my goals and move forward."

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