When children must be removed from their families to ensure their safety, the first goal is to reunite them with their families as soon as possible. Child welfare agencies implement multifaceted strategies that build on family strengths and address concerns. Such strategies may include family engagement, maintaining family and cultural connections, connecting families to evidence-based services, regular and frequent visits among family members and with the worker, and parent education, among others. Returning children home often requires intensive, family-centered services to support a safe and stable family. Services should be tailored to each family's circumstances and must address the issue(s) that brought the child and family into the child welfare system. The following resources offer an array of practices and strategies that support family reunification efforts in child welfare, including State and local examples.
- Engaging parents in reunification
- Assessing readiness for reunification
- Reunification with relatives
- Reunification with parents with substance use issues
- Reunification with parents affected by behavioral or physical health issues
- Reunification with parents who are incarcerated
- Reunification in families affected by domestic violence
- Preventing placement re-entry
- Reinstatement of parental rights
Child Welfare Briefing: Strategies Towards Successful Reunification (PDF - 825 KB)
American Humane Association (2012)
Child Welfare Briefing, 3(1)
Describes barriers to reunification and highlights several successful programs.
Cornerstone Advocacy in the First 60 Days: Achieving Safe and Lasting Reunification for Families (PDF - 264 KB)
New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project (2011)
CWCIP Best Practice Bulletin, 3(1)
Summarizes key elements of the Cornerstone approach to supporting family reunification with intensive advocacy during the first 60 days of a child welfare case and the use of preliminary conferences to ensure timely and well-informed decisions regarding placement, visiting, and services. A preliminary conference checklist and list of resources are also included.
National Family Preservation Network
Provides an overview of the history, values and beliefs, program standards, research, public policy, and resources on safely and effectively reuniting families following out-of-home placement.
Increase Exits From Foster Care to Reunification
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Offers data, trends, strategies, and funding principles regarding reunification.
Partnering With Parents: Promising Approaches to Improve Reunification Outcomes for Children in Foster Care
Berrick, Cohen, & Anthony (2011)
Journal of Family Strengths, 11(1)
Examines outcomes for children served by the Parent Partner program, which assists parents with reunification and whose staff includes mothers and fathers who have been involved with child welfare.
Child Welfare Program: Strategies to Help Caseworkers Reunite More Families (PDF - 1,362 KB)Brown & Blackmer (2012)
Oregon Secretary of State
Discusses an audit by the Oregon Secretary of State to identify challenges to returning children home and improvements the child welfare agency can make.
An Examination of the Child and Family Services Agency's Performance When it Removes Children From and Quickly Returns Them to Their Families: Findings and Recommendations From the Citizens Review Panel (PDF - 1,690 KB)
District of Columbia Citizen Review Panel (2011)
Presents the findings of a study in the District of Columbia of children who were removed from their homes by the child welfare agency and then quickly returned.
Family Reunification in North Carolina
North Carolina Division of Social Services & North Carolina Family and Children's Resource Program (2013)
Children's Services Practice Notes, 18(3)
Includes articles about data on time to reunification for children and families in the State of North Carolina, changes to the State's family reunification program, information about collaboration with the courts, and more.
Family Reunification in Washington State: Which Children Go Home and How Long Does it Take? (PDF - 175 KB)
Marcenko, Newby, Mienko, & Courtney (2011)
Discussion Paper, 1(5)
Examines findings from a survey of parents of children receiving in-home or out-of-home services in Washington State. The study was intended to evaluate the State's practice model, Solution Based Casework, and factors that may predict family reunification.
Promoting Permanency: Successful Exits From Therapeutic Group Care Through Family and Community Reintegration [Video]
Casey Family Programs (2009)
Features a brief video that shares the stories of three families who were reunited through the Child Protective Services Reintegration Pilot Project, which provides an extensive network of wraparound services and supports to caregivers of youth who are in foster care, have at least one diagnosed mental or behavioral health disorder, and are reintegrating into their families and communities. A discussion guide for facilitators is also available.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 539KB)
Reunification of Foster Children With Their Families: The First Permanency Outcome (PDF - 262 KB)
State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center
Discusses reunification of children with their families, including challenges, examples of promising State approaches, and Federal funding.