When children are in foster care, they typically have regular, supervised visits with their parents. June is National Family Reunification Month. Being involved with the foster care system can give your family support and a chance to be stronger than before. Suggested Citation: Child Welfare Information Gateway. While it will be a relief to have their children back, it may also be scary. If you have concerns about a reunification decision. If a parent has a hard time meeting the reunification goals, they can ask for assistance or more time to do so. The Bittersweet Process of Foster Care Reunification After 30 years of marriage, eight kids (six of whom were adopted), and 25 years of foster care, we were done. If you have concerns about aspects of a reunification process for a child talk to your care team. This is an attorney who represents the best interest of the child. Some fear that having a social worker checking in and staying involved is too much scrutiny and that they will inevitably “mess up” and have their child removed again. Everyone will need time to adjust to the new boundaries and lessons they have learned during the time away. While each case is different, a general rule of thumb is that if a child has spent 15 months in foster care, it is time to reassess and decide how to proceed, and if adoption ought to be added as a potential goal. Reunification -- which means getting the family safely back together after the child has been placed in foster care -- is almost always the first goal and in the child’s best interest. Some cases are short-term cases and can result in reunification after a few weeks, while other cases can go on for years. However, leaving the foster home to return to their family may feel like a relief, but also frightening. As parents progress toward their assigned goals, the reunification process begins with unsupervised visits, overnight visits, and weekend visits. They must trust the process and the system to work to protect these children and do what is right for them. Although barriers and challenges exist for families rebuilding after foster care, these families can take certain measures to sup… They will also (as safety allows) participate in visits with their child during this time. During the reunification process, all parties involved must make reports to the court and appear before the judge every so often, usually every 90 days. In some cases, the court may decide to continue trying to reunify the family. Typically, kinship care refers to placing the child with a relative. Parents will be working hard to implement lessons learned, and children will be working on understanding that many things have changed, and expectations should be different. Families must support court ordered reunification plans and visitation expectations. Children are removed when the situation they are in is one that is unsafe. Once a child is placed into foster care--either with relatives or nonrelatives--the case is sent to a reunification unit to receive services to try to reunify the family. So, attorneys, CASAs, foster parents, and biological parents appear to give an update on the children, as well as the parents’, progress. Talking about these things together as a family can help the transition. Reunification is the process of reuniting foster children with their biological parents once those parents are equipped to care for their children in a safe and loving environment.Family Reunification services are provided by Child Welfare Services (CWS) to families whose children have been temporarily placed in out-of-home care. Reunification offers a second chance for parents and children to have a stable, happy, healthy family life. By using this site you agree to the terms of service and privacy notice. Kinship placement is any home where the caregiver has a relationship with the child and is not a stranger. Visitations typically are supervised and court hearings are held at … Reunification is the reunion of children in foster care returning to live with their birth parents or guardians. It is hard to bring a child into your life, and then have them leave without updates or knowledge of how they are. Safe reunification of children with their parents is the primary goal of the dependency process, which strives for learning and healing. A pre-adoptive foster home is one in which the foster family has expressed interest in pursuing adoption, and is home studied and ready to do so. This is usually the end goal for most children in foster care – and the parent and child reunification plan will likely have been worked towards throughout the entire … Of these, more than half are reunified with their parents, after an average of six months in care. All rights reserved. Kinship care is not always possible, however, and that is why there is a need for licensed foster homes. Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). Here in Arkansas, nearly 70% of all children who exit foster care go home to either their parents or to a relative. Parents sometimes feel anxious or scared to ask for support after reunification. entered foster care.2 The court will decide if the child can safely be returned home or if efforts to reunify the child with her birth family should end. When you add the stress of parenting back into the equation, will they be able to continue making the right choices? Because reunification is the goal, a parent can receive a lot of support and help to aid them in their case plan. When it is nearing time for a family to be reunified, there may be an increase in visitations or even some overnight visitations to help the adjustment, prior to the children returning home on a full-time basis. In these cases, parents may need to complete certain steps before being allowed contact with their children. Some examples of what a case plan may include is AODA counseling, drug testing, therapy, parenting classes, health assessments (including mental health if applicable), home visits, maybe a change in residence if deemed necessary, secure job and income, etc. When a child is no longer part of the foster care system, and the case is closed, they have been successfully reunified. The case plan will work to remedy any issues that are considered unsafe, and help the home become one that is more stable. © 2021. Foster care is a legal process to ensure that children who cannot ... Federally-approved permanency goals, in order of preference, include: reunification with a parent, adoption, guardianship, placement with a fit and willing relative, and There is no guaranteed time frame for how long a child will remain in foster care. Family reunification is the process of returning a child to his or her family of origin following a placement in foster care. The most common permanency goal for children in foster care is reunification. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Sometimes, even after reunification, parents may be required to continue services to have their children in the home. Resources available to help families during and after reunification also are included. The general consensus within the child welfare system is that children tend to thrive when placed in their own family settings. They are responsible for gathering information from the case, the parents, and if age-appropriate, the child. Children do best with the support, love, and identity provided by their family of origin (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014). It is often vital to the reunification process for parents to know they can have assistance and support in working to reunite with their child and in completing the tasks detailed in their case plans. Permanence for children in child welfare is generally discussed as one of three outcomes for children in foster care: reunification with the family, adoption, or kinship care. Once reunification occurs, it does not mean that services are no longer available. Will the stress of parenting send them back into old habits? Reunification: Bringing your children home from foster care. Reunification, or return to biological parents, is the primary goal of foster care. This is not a guarantee, though, which is part of what makes fostering so difficult. While parents are working on the reunification of a child, they will need to participate in the case plan requirements. Others, however, like the support after reunification, and find it motivating and helpful. Research finds that children do best when raised in their own families, whenever possible. Help can be in the form of transportation to and from visits or support meetings, gift cards for gas money, help with food, help with getting a stable job, and help with finding adequate housing. Workers believe that concurrent planning is a fair and necessary part of the permanency process and helps expedite permanency. While they may be aware that their parents are working on improving the home situation, it may be hard to trust that it has improved. As it now stands, there is a federal law that mandates courts and child welfare agencies to work towards reunification with a biological parent upon children entering care. In the materials you provide to prospective parents, you can include data on the percentage of children in foster care who reunify with birth family and who are placed with relatives. This may cause them to feel guilty, and they may feel they have let their parents down by “liking” the foster home. At that time, parents have regained placement of the child, and Social Services has deemed the home safe for the child’s return. When making a plan with a social worker, parents are able to highlight their strengths, as well as express concerns they may have. For so many youth involved in foster care, this framework is critical to navigating the challenges of young adulthood and to future decision making. October 2013 . Another thing to remember as the reunification process begins is that there may be some unexpected feelings that come up. in English or en español. This factsheet for families provides a general overview of the reunification process, including what parents can expect while their children are in foster care, what they can do to help their children return home, and what to expect after children return home. It is also completely normal to struggle with parenting. These are just a few ways that parents are able to get help from Social Services. There is a fear in showing that you still need assistance and that you are still relying on help. Also, providing a list of potential relatives and friends who may be supportive is important. When a child is no longer part of the foster care system, and the case is closed, they have been successfully reunified. Almost half a million children are in foster care or other out-of-home placements in the United States. The most important thing is to be sure the child is safe. There may be a new housing situation to adjust to, or even new schedules, schools, or jobs to consider. At this time, the state is acknowledging that the case plan is taking a significant amount of time and that the parents may not be able to complete all the tasks. Foster care and foster-to-adopt application The reunification process can be emotional for the foster family as well. The reunification process in foster care is when a foster child is in the process of being reunified with their parents. Reunification is the process of getting a family safely back together after children have been placed in the foster care system. She has been married for almost 15 years. At this time, the child is considered at legal risk and may be placed into a pre-adoptive foster home. There are a lot of feelings and insecurities that may come along with the reunification process. Overview . What Are Common Open Adoption Rules and Benefits. This article analyzes new data on trends in family reunification and discovers: Although most children still exit foster … Low Probability — In Washington State, only 16% of children leave foster care through adoption. The reunification process in foster care is when a foster child is in the process of being reunified with their parents. Talk to your care team about what you can do. Over 50% of children in Washington State are ultimately reunited with their families. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. Put simply, reunification happens when children return to live with their birth parents full-time. Reunifying children placed in foster care with their birth parents is a primary goal of the child welfare system. Need some help with your adoption search? Sometimes, parents resist the involvement of Social Services once their child has been placed back in their care. In more extreme cases, where a child’s safety is in question, there may be a court order that prevents visits until the court can be assured that visits will be safe for the child. John Sciamanna Consultant, Children’s Policy . There should still be support to ensure that the reunification lasts and that the child is not removed from the home again. Some parents may be relieved to have help to learn parenting strategies and to be able to have parenting support. The GAL’s recommendation in court is usually taken seriously and weighed heavily by the judge. Will their child feel disappointed in returning home, where things may not be as “nice” as the foster home they were placed in? The aim of child protective services agencies regarding children in state custody is two-fold: to achieve parental reunification as quickly as possible and to help ensure that the child will not re-enter the foster care system at a later date. Looking after yourself. Foster care is not forever. When you try to do things on your own without help, you may become too overwhelmed. Learn more. A September 2008 report utilizing data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), a federal database that collects case level information on every child placed in foster care nationwide, reported that 43% of children reunified with their birth families in Philadelphia returned to foster care within 12 months after reunification — compared to 28% in Pennsylvania and 30% nationally. There are many ways that the Department of Social Services is able and willing to help a parent in order to reunite them with their child. It is important that parents are honest with the caseworker, and disclose any mental health, physical health, or abuse and neglect issues within the home. tive foster parents are often hungry for information about the process, which gives you a great opportunity to share information about what their role would be. This list will help the caseworker search for kinship care, as well as help to set up a support system to help in the reunification process and working on the case plan. Along with social workers, there will be a guardian ad litem, or GAL, assigned to the case. Each foster care case begins with the goal of reunification. (2016). They do not work for the parents or for Social Services. Family Reunification Services Camelot’s Family Reunification Services Program supports the reunification of children and birth families after child welfare involvement. She is also a mom to numerous pets. Reunification—which means getting the family safely back together—is almost always the first goal and in your child’s best interest. Reunification. may still be a great concern for the children. The parties intend to involve the foster parents /caregivers in the reunification process as follows: specific visitation schedule parents agree to allow foster parents / caregivers. Foster carers, residential care staff and schools all have a significant role to play in supporting children and parents throughout the process. In fact, this is the most common outcome. There is no shame in knowing you need help and vocalizing it. Need some help with your adoption search? In some cases, foster parents are able to maintain relationships after reunification. Kids may feel both excited and scared to return to their parents’ care. Will the child have resentment for being placed in foster care? Adoption.org is a service of the Gladney Center for Adoption, a licensed adoption agency. Resources available to help families during and after reunification also are included. Foster care refers to situations where the State has custody of the children, whether they are in the care of relatives, a foster home or residential facility. Children and youth can and do return home to their families. The Commission on Children in Foster Care encourages everyone to join in celebrating families that have worked so hard and succeeded in reunifying. This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, reunification does not occur uniformly across the nation, with differences appearing from state to state, across races, and at different ages. However, teachers, family friends, and others who the child may be familiar with can be considered. A child will be more comfortable if they are familiar with their caregiver, and far less stressed. In addition, the department, through its agent, agrees to facilitate said visitation. The expectation is that everyone would be feeling pure joy, but that is not always the case. 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