Reasonable Efforts to Preserve or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children - California

Date: September 2019

What Are Reasonable Efforts

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 361.5

The term 'reunification services' includes the following:

  • Child welfare services
  • Court-ordered counseling and other treatment services for the reunification of the child with the child's family

When Reasonable Efforts Are Required

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 361.5

Family reunification services are required when a child is removed from a parent's or guardian's custody and shall be provided as follows:

  • For a child age 3 or older, services may not be offered for longer than a period of 12 months from the date the child entered foster care.
  • For a child under age 3, services may not be offered for longer than period of 6 months from the date the child entered foster care.

For the purpose of placing and maintaining a sibling group together in a permanent home if reunification efforts fail, for a child in a sibling group that was removed from the physical custody of his or her parent or guardian and in which one member of that group was under age 3 on the date of initial removal, court-ordered services to some or all of the sibling group may be limited to a period of 6 months from the date the child entered foster care. For the purposes of this paragraph, a sibling group is two or more children who are related to each other as full or half siblings.

When Reasonable Efforts Are NOT Required

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 361.5

Reunification services need not be provided when the court finds by clear and convincing evidence any of the following:

  • The whereabouts of the parent are unknown.
  • The parent has a mental disability that makes him or her incapable of utilizing services.
  • There is a prior adjudication of physical or sexual abuse of a child, and after the child was returned home, the child has been removed due to additional physical or sexual abuse.
  • The parent caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect.
  • A child younger than age 5 has suffered severe physical abuse that was inflicted by the parent, as defined in § 300(e).
  • The parent has inflicted severe physical or sexual abuse on the child or a sibling, and the court finds that it would not benefit the child to pursue reunification with the offending parent.
  • The parent is not receiving reunification services for a sibling of the child.
  • The child was conceived as a result of a sexual offense.
  • The parent has willfully abandoned the child.
  • The court ordered termination of reunification services for any siblings of the child because the parent failed to reunify with the sibling, and that parent has not subsequently made a reasonable effort to treat the problems that led to removal of the sibling from the parent.
  • The parent's rights to another child have been terminated, and conditions that led to the termination have not been remedied.
  • The parent has been convicted of a violent felony.
  • The parent has a history of chronic use of drugs or alcohol and refused to comply with a treatment program.
  • The parent has indicated a lack of interest in reunification services.
  • The parent has on one or more occasions abducted the child or a sibling from his or her placement.
  • The parent or guardian knowingly participated in or permitted the sexual exploitation of the child, not including instances in which the parent or guardian can demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was coerced into permitting or participating in the sexual exploitation of the child.