The goals of reunification include the ongoing safety, stability, and well-being of the entire family. Once families are reunified, the child welfare system typically remains involved to support the transition of the children into the home and offer additional supports that the family may need. In effort to reduce recidivism, these services must be tailored to the individual needs of the family. Targeting appropriate services for families, including those of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, involves selecting strengths-based and accessible providers with demonstrated cultural responsiveness and coordinating with other demands on the family, such as employment and child care.
The following resources offer examples of best practices and innovative programs that help to prevent children or youth from experiencing family separation after being reunified, including State and local examples.
Agencies Should Prioritize Family Supports During Reunification to Prevent Reentry
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau (2020)
Children’s Bureau Express, 21(5)
Shares findings from a study on predictors of successful family reunifications and finds family-level factors were stronger predictors of reunification than State-level factors.
Family Stabilization Programs
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Describes evidence-based programs designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children and youth in their homes and prevent their initial placement or reentry into foster care.
Improving Policies and Services Supporting Successful Reunification [Webinar]
Hall & Baughman (2018)
Shares results and key findings from the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council’s survey of youth and alumni on their experiences with reunification.
Reentry to Foster Care: Identifying Candidates Under the Family First Act
The Center for State Child Welfare Data (2020)
Explores risks of children returning to foster care and provides information on evidence-based interventions available through the Family First Prevention Services Act.
Returning to Foster Care: Age and Other Risk Factors
Wulczyn, Parolini, Schmits, Magruder, & Webster (2020)
Children and Youth Services Review, 116
Presents data from 20 States relating to the risks of returning to foster care after reunification or placement with guardians outside the foster care system.
Review of Interventions to Reduce Child Welfare Recidivism
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau (2021)
Children’s Bureau Express, 22(6)
Discusses a study on the effectiveness of interventions used to reduce the reentry rates of children who have reunified with their families.
Supporting Sustained Permanency Webinar
Child Welfare League of America & Casey Family Programs (2018)
Offers a two-part webinar series on perspectives and strategies to sustain permanency, information on reducing reentry into foster care, funding opportunities, and more.
State and local examples
Age and Other Risk Factors Related to Reentry to Care From Kin Guardian Homes
Parolini, Shlonsky, Magruder, Eastman, Wulczyn, & Webster (2018)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 79
Presents the findings of a study on factors leading kinship guardianship breakdown from cases in California from 2003 to 2010.
Shields for Families
Provides programs and services for families in Los Angeles County and works to promote family reunification and support families staying together once they are reunified.