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Reunification – Old and New Information. Diana J. English PhD Child Welfare League of America May 30, 2007.

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reunification old and new information

Reunification – Old and New Information

Diana J. English PhD

Child Welfare League of America

May 30, 2007

The research upon which this presentation is based, “An Evaluation of Two Family Reunification and Stabilization Programs,” was supported by a grant (#90CW1128) from the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, and by The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
prior research on reunification and re entry
Prior Research on Reunification and Re-entry
  • Overall, prior research has found little effect of FPS services
  • This research has been criticized for design and methodological flaws
    • Lack of standardized assessment
    • Non-randomized
    • Referral criteria (Frazer et al., 1997; Heneghan et al., 1996)
prior research on reunification and re entry1
Prior Research on Reunification and Re-entry

Across studies reunification rates 40-100% and re-entry rates 12-31%.

Call for additional research on criteria for referral to FRSS services and match between service and identified need

factors that predict re entry
Factors That Predict Re-entry
  • Child Factors
    • Age
    • Ethnicity
    • Behavior problems/truancy
    • Medical problems
    • Ambivalence to reunification
factors that predict re entry caregiver

Substance Abuse

Lack of Social Support

Lack of Parenting Skills

Caregiver History of Abuse/Neglect as a Child

Domestic Violence


Previous Experience with Intervention

Multiple Problems

Prior Criminal History

(English et al., 2006)

Factors That Predict Re-Entry - Caregiver
factors that predict re entry system
Factors That Predict Re-Entry - System
  • Child in placement longer than 10 weeks – 50% less likely to reunify (also predicted re-entry) (Goerge, 1990).
  • Reunification often occurs without proper resolution of problems.
washington state frss study
Washington State – FRSS Study
  • Included interviews with approximately 500 Social Workers for FRSS referred and Non-FRSS referred families
  • Data on:
    • Child Characteristics
    • Caregiver Characteristics
    • Services
    • Outcomes
washington frss study
Washington FRSS Study
  • Non-FRSS – 41% reunification
  • FRSS – 52% reunification

- within 15 months of placement.

  • No difference in re-referral rate or re-entry rate.
  • 15-18% re-referred
  • 11-14% re-entered
washington frss study general characteristics of study families
FRSS Reunification Services

Prior placement

CA/N reason for removal

Physical abuse index referral

Permanency Plan of return home

Parenting skills problems

Children with some developmental delays


More infants

Fewer 6-12 year olds

Younger caregivers

Less social support

Substance abuse risk

Washington FRSS Study – General Characteristics of Study Families
selected findings characteristics of outcome groups of frss families
More Likely Reunified

Younger children


Less risk associated with caregiver mental/emotional impairment

Less risk associated with recognition of problem, lack of motivation to change

Less Likely Reunified

Children beyond infancy

Caregiver significant impairments

Parenting skills

Disciplinary practices

Caregivers lacking recognition of the problem

Caregivers lacking motivation to change

Selected Findings – Characteristics of Outcome Groups of FRSS Families
characteristics of outcome groups of non frss families
More Likely Reunified

Non-maltreatment reasons for removal

Cooperation with CPS

Less Likely Reunified

CA/N reason for removal

Lack of cooperation

History of violence

Maltreatment as a child

Caregiver lack of empathy

Characteristics of Outcome Groups of Non-FRSS Families
selected findings
Selected Findings
  • Even though FRSS referred families “less risky,” only one-half reunified.
  • FRSS services most successful at reunifying infants, Caucasians, fewer risk factors
selected findings1
Selected Findings
  • FRSS less effective at preventing placement with:
    • Non-Caucasian
    • Caregivers with mental/emotional/physical problems
    • Lack of recognition of problems
    • Children older than infants
selected findings2
Selected Findings
  • Need to re-examine services related to:
    • Risks related to motivation/recognition
    • African Americans
    • Families with multiple risk factors
    • Either concurrent planning faster or different configuration of services needed
selected findings3
Selected Findings
  • Children identified with service need received services – except child behavior problems – predicted re-referral for older children.
  • Lack of parenting skills associated with non-reunification
  • Domestic violence – male leaving predicts reunification.
selected findings4
Selected Findings
  • Low rate of engagement in substance abuse services – need to examine current approach and service array
  • The more time a therapist spent with family more likely to reunify (no evidence that paraprofessionals can substitute for work of therapist).
selected findings5
Selected Findings
  • Need to re-examine services related to:
    • History of violence
    • Caregiver mental/emotional functioning
    • Recognition
    • Motivation
selected findings6
Selected Findings
  • Caregivers assessed as less connected to their children and less capable of caring for them
  • SW less comfortable that caregiver understood child’s needs, caregiver lacked demonstrated capacity to meet child’s needs, ability to parent other children impacted by child’s reunification.
selected findings7
Selected Findings
  • 20-25% did not resolve risk associated with removal prior to reunification
  • FRSS may not be most appropriate for families with chronic, deep-seated problems associated with maltreatment (particularly neglect).
selected findings8
Selected Findings
  • Caregiver active involvement in services was related to less ambivalence and more readiness for reunification.
  • Caregiver’s lack of active involvement in services was related to re-entry of the child into foster care within 6 months.
  • Two independently significant predictors of less re-entry:
    • Completion of case service plans
    • Establishment of back-up supports and/or service plans.