The goal of reunification includes ongoing safety and stability in the family. Preventing the need for children to reenter foster care is a key goal for child welfare services. Certain child and family characteristics may be associated with an increased risk of reentry into the child welfare system, including such factors as older age of the child (i.e., teens), children with behavioral issues or disabilities, and race/ethnicity. The following resources offer examples of best practices and innovative programs that help to prevent children or youth from reentering foster care once reunification has occurred. The following resources include State and local examples.
Expanding the Conceptualization of Re-entry: The Inter-play Between Child Welfare and Juvenile Services (PDF - 320 KB)
Shipe, Shaw, Betsinger, & Farrell (2017)
Examines re-entry rates for children and youth who return to the child welfare system or enter the juvenile justice system after reunification from foster care. The study concludes with implications for the field.
Family Reunification Following Foster Care (PDF - 872 KB)
Monroe and Harris (2016)
University of Florida, Family, Youth, and Community Sciences Department
Explores ways to ensure successful reunification and prevent re-entry into foster care including information for children, steps to take to maintain reunification, how to utilize support systems, and more.
Family Stabilization Programs
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (2018)
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 re-entry into foster care. The programs also aim to support and stabilize families that have come to the attention of child welfare services.
National Foster Care Month: Post-Reunification Supports and Prevention of Reentry Into Out-of-Home Care [Webinar]
Capacity Building Center for States (2016)
Provides an overview of the benefits of reunification and postreunification supports and explores how these strategies help prevent reentry into child welfare services. Registration is required to access this webinar.
Preventing Re-Entry to Foster Care (PDF - 273 KB)
Carnochan, Rizik-Baer, & Austin (2013)
Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 10(3)
Reviews research related to indicators of foster care re-entry including the characteristics of children, caregivers and families as well as case and child welfare services that are associated with higher or lower risk for re-entry into care. The article also describes promising postreunification services designed to prevent re-entry into out-of-home care.
Promoting Birth Parents’ Relationships With Their Toddlers Upon Reunification: Results From Promoting First Relationships® Home Visiting Program
Oxford, Marcenko, Fleming, Lohr, & Spieker (2016)
Child Youth Service Review, 61
Reports the findings of a study on a home visiting program for reunified birth parents of toddlers. The study concludes with implications for practice improvement.
Supporting Lifelong Families: Steps Child Welfare Agencies Can Take to Prevent Children from Re-Entering Foster Care (PDF - 169 KB)
Casey Family Programs (2017)
Provides recommendations for actions child welfare leaders can take to improve services for families and youth to ensure they do not re-enter care.
Families First of Michigan
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (2018)
Offers families in Michigan short-term crisis intervention and family education services in the home to work toward family stabilization and prevent initial placement or re-entry into foster care. The workers from the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services are available to families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and assist family members by establishing goals designed to reduce risk of out-of-home placement for children.
Minnesota Child Welfare Continuous Improvement Brief Examining Child Re-Entry Into Out-of-Home Care (PDF - 1,628 KB)
Minnesota Department of Human Services (2013)
Examines the characteristics of children in Minnesota who reenter out-of-home care, the experience of reentry, and promising practices and recommendations for predicting and reducing reentry.
Sustained Permanency Project Launching to Prevent Children From Re-Entering Foster Care
Describes the Colorado Division of Child Welfare's "Sustained Permanency Project," launched in conjunction with Casey Family Programs and the National Implementation Research Network to use implementation science to develop a practice model to lessen the likelihood of foster care re-entry. The model will use predictive analytics, services, and coaching to improve permanency in Colorado.