Family Reunification services may be ordered by the Court for the parents to regain physical custody of their child. The family reunification services are meant to address the circumstances that led to the removal of their child and initial placement in the foster care system.
Family reunification in child welfare refers to the process of returning children in foster care with their birth parents. Reunification is the common goal for children in foster care, as well as the most common outcome. It's estimated by the Child Welfare Information Gateway that about half of the children in foster care end up being reunified with their parents (1). Seeing that more than half of children who leave foster care are reunified with their families, it is important that the system focuses on helping parents achieve successful reunification. To do this Child welfare agencies implement multidimensional strategies that build on family strengths and address concerns.
Example strategies may include:
- Family engagement
- Maintaining family and cultural connections
- Connecting families to evidence-based services in the community
- Regular and frequent visits among family members and with the case social worker
- Parent education and training
Returning children home often requires intensive, family-centered services to support a safe and stable family. Services are usually catered to each family's situation and should address the main issues that brought the child and family into the child welfare system to begin with.
Why Is Family Reunification The First Option?
It's simple, because family preservation is still the best outcome for a child in foster care. Massive amounts of research has shown that separating children from their birth families is traumatic and it has long-lasting effects on their mental, emotional, and physical health. So if there is a possibility of reunifying the family, that's still a better long term solution for a child compared to removing all family and cultural bonds. Foster care is intended to provide a temporary safe place for children who have nowhere else to go. During that time the birth parents have the opportunity to improve themselves and their situation with the hope for reunification. That's why family reunification is always the first option when a case worker gets a new case.
If you would like more information about the family reunification process at Lilliput Families or if you would like more information on the organization, please visit this page and fill out this form.
(1) Childwelfare.gov - Foster Care Statistics 2017 (March 2019)