We provide services to reunite children with their legal parents
Family Reunification Program
The Family Reunification (FR) program is a Court ordered program that provides services to biological parents, adoptive parents, and Legal Guardians. The goal of the FR program is to reunite a child who has been placed into foster care with his/her/their legal parent in a safe, stable, and supportive home. The services offered are tailored to each family’s unique needs and circumstances. All FR cases involve children who have been removed from parental care and custody due to child abuse and/or neglect.
Parents who have been Court ordered to receive reunification services will be assigned a social worker, called a Child Welfare Worker. This social worker will be in regular communication with the parent with the goal to help the parent reunite with his/her/their child. Social workers carry out this goal of reunification by:
- Meeting with parents monthly to monitor progress while providing support and guidance
- Identifying barriers to reunification and services to assist parents to address these barriers
- Continuously assessing the child’s and parent’s needs with safety, permanency, and well-being as the top priorities
- Assist the parent with understanding and meeting the goals of the Court ordered case plan
- Promote a supportive parent-child relationship by fostering regular, quality visitation
- Help parents create a safe and supportive home environment so that the child can safely return home
- Providing referrals to services and arranging funding for services
- Maintain regular contact with service providers and get regular reports on services provided and the parents progress
- Provide services to meet the child’s needs, including the need for a stable, safe, and permanent living situation
Timeframe for FR Services
Reunification services are time limited. Families in the Reunification program will have a Court hearing every six months where the Judge will consider if (1) the child should return home (2) if the parent should receive additional family reunification services or (3) if reunification services should end and the child should be placed in a permanent home outside of the parent’s care. For children under three years of age at the time of removal, the Court will initially only order six months of family reunification services. For services to continue beyond six months, a parent must demonstrate that there is a substantial likelihood of return to the parent. Substantial likelihood means that the parent has demonstrated a marked and improved change of circumstance from the time of removal, has made significant progress toward the case plan goals, and is likely to reunify with an additional six more months of reunification services.
It is important to know that for a sibling group in which some of the children are under three years of age, the Court may also limit reunification services to only six months, unless the parent demonstrates significant progress towards providing a safe and stable environment for their children. Except for rare circumstances, the maximum length of time that a parent can receive reunification services is eighteen months from the date the child was removed from the parent’s care and placed into foster care.
Case Plans in FR
State law requires an assessment and case plan for each child and parent receiving family reunification services. The case plan may include other important people in the child’s life, like relatives. The Case Plan document is developed in collaboration with the family at the Child and Family Team Meeting (CFT).
The case plan document includes the goal for each child, the visitation schedule for each child, and the specific services and case management activities to be performed by the parents.
It is important to understand that the Child Welfare Worker assigned to each family is mandated to engage in concurrent planning. Concurrent planning means the social worker must provide reunification services and at the same time develop an alternative plan in the event that reunification does not occur. Reunification with a parent is always the preferred goal, whenever possible.
Concurrent planning starts at the time a child is removed and continues until the child is either returned to a parent’s care, or living in a permanent home. In the Family Reunification program, a key goal is to find placement in a home that will support reunification and that will also become a permanent home for the child if reunification is not possible. The Child Welfare Worker will be seeking both emotional and legal permanence for every child. Legal permanence includes adoption and Legal Guardianship.