*For additional information, visit our Hot Topic webpage on Reinstatement of Parental Rights.

From the T/TA Network & Children’s Bureau

Resources & Publications

  • Supporting Reunification and Preventing Reentry Into Out-of-Home Care
    As part of the Child Welfare Information Gateway State Managers Series, this resource for professionals explores the benefits of supporting reunification and preventing reentry, and discusses approaches and specific strategies that support reunification and prevent reentry, including State and local examples. (February 2012)
  • Family Reunification: What the Evidence Shows
    This issue brief from the Child Welfare Information Gateway identifies meaningful family engagement, assessment and case planning, and service delivery as strategies that are most helpful in family reunification. These strategies are explored through findings from the Child and Family Services Reviews, review of literature on family reunification, and successful practice examples from the field. (June 2011)
  • Promising Practices in Reunification 
    This paper looks at five practices that are important components to reunification programs including: placement decision-making, parent-child visiting, intensive services, resource parent/birth parent collaboration, and aftercare services. By Susan Dougherty for NRCPFC. (April 2004)

Webinars, Webcasts, and Videos

  • Reunification Models 
    The NRCPFC and CWLA hosted a teleconference for state foster care and adoption managers on reunification models and programs. (May 2007)

From Collaborating Organizations

Evidence-Based Practice, Research, and Reports

  • Parents’ Pasts and Families’ Futures: Using Family   Assessments to Inform Perspectives on Reasonable Efforts and Reunification
    In this Chapin Hall study, comprehensive family assessments conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services are used to identify and better understand the experiences of a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system who report extensive exposure to trauma in their own personal histories. The authors, Cheryl Smithgall, Jan DeCoursey, Duck-Hye Yang, and Lisa Haseltine, explore the relationship between parents’ childhood experiences and their current functioning. The report examines what caseworkers and clinicians see as the initial prognosis for these families and the reunification and reentry outcomes for their children. The findings that a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system have extensive childhood trauma experiences and present with multiple problems or service needs have implications for caseworker engagement as well as interventions. The study raises fundamental questions about our obligation and approaches to serving parents, protecting children, and promoting well-being. The report aims to encourage dialogue about what policies and practices might need to be developed and implemented in order to improve long-term child and family well-being outcomes for this particular group of families. (2012)

Resources and Publications

  • Reunification of Foster Children with their Families: The First Permanency Outcome
    This publication from First Focus discusses reunification of foster children with their families.  It describes the challenge of reunification, includes examples of promising State approaches, and discusses Federal funding.  This resource also provides ideas on what State advocates can do to promote and support reunification.  (October 2013).

  • The Long Shadow of Foster Care: Rise Magazine
    When children come home from foster care, parents hope they can leave the trauma of separation behind them. But for many families, separation casts a shadow for years to come. In this issue of RISE magazine, parents describe the impact of removal long after reunification and explore what the child welfare system could do differently to protect kids and support families. Rise magazine is written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system. Its mission is to help parents advocate for themselves and their children. (Spring 2012)

  • Reunification: A Decision and Practice within Provisional Safety Management 
    This brief from Action for Child Protection discusses the reunification of foster children with their parents within the framework of provisional safety management.  It explains the components of both the reunification decision and reunification decision benchmark. Essential rules for reunification are reviewed, along with criteria for safety assessment and implementation of the safety plan. The brief also provides an overview of the reunification process. (July 2006)
  • Together Again: Rise Magazine 
    Rise Magazine is written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system, with the mission of helping parents advocate for themselves and their children. In this issue of Rise Magazine, parents talk about their experiences being reunified with their children and what helped their families become whole again. (Summer 2006)
  • Family Reunification
    This article from The Future of Children discusses family reunification policy and practice. It discusses the legal framework shaping policy and practice of family reunification, assesses trends and patterns in reunification, and explores the implication for policy and practice. By Fred Wulczyn. (Winter 2004)
  • “You Can Get Your Kids Back” Poster 
    The Catalyst for Kid’s “You Can Get Your Kids Back” poster/flyer, with advice for parents from parents who achieved reunification, is available for download from their website.

Webinars, Webcasts, and Videos

From the States

  •  California: Birth Parents and the Reunification Process: A Study of the Mendocino County Model 
    The Center for Social Services Research at the University of California, Berkley conducted a study to examine California’s Mendocino County Model, in which families whose children have been removed are referred to a local Family Center by the court and offered parenting classes, visitation services, and weekly services.  Findings from this study suggest that by participating in Family Center services, birth parents appeared to experience increased control over their circumstances and that the Family Center service model serves as a promising intervention for supporting birth parents. By Laura Frame, Amy Conley, and Jill Duerr Berrick. (December 2004)
  • Missouri: Permanency Through Reunification 
    In this chapter of the Missouri Child Welfare Manual, permanency through reunification is addressed. It includes the following sections: Legal Basis, Definition and Purpose, Factors to Consider in Family Reunification, Development of the Case Plan/Written Service Agreement for Reunification, Time Limits, Family Approval, Services/Resources, Case Plan/Written Service Agreement Implementation, Case Plan/Written Service Agreement Review, Recommending Reunification, and Steps Taken in the Process of Returning the Child. (December 2007)
  • New Mexico: Child Protection Best Practices Bulletins: Transition Home Plans
    In New Mexico, the permanency option of reunification requires the development of a Transition Home Plan which includes efforts to maintain supportive relationships with the community, among other essential elements in achieving the transition home. This bulletin outlines best practices and describes the roles of caseworkers, judges, attorneys, court staff, CASA volunteers, parents, and youth in developing the Transition Plan.  The bulletin was jointly published by Advocacy Inc., The Corinne Wolfe Children’s Law Center (CLC) at the University of New Mexico School of Law, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, New Mexico Children’s Court Improvement Commission (CCIC), and New Mexico Citizens Review Board. (2011)
  • North Carolina: Time-Limited Family Reunification Services
    This chapter in the North Carolina Division of Social Services Child Welfare Services Manual provides a description of their protocol involving time-limited family reunification services and includes the principles of family reunification and definitions. (July 2013)
  • Ohio: Re-entry in Child Protective Services: A Rapid Evidence Assessment 
    This report from Denise E. Bronson of The Ohio State University College of Social Work discusses the University Research Consortium’s synthesis of research literature regarding methods to reduce re-entry into foster care for children who have been reunited with their families. Recommendations for reducing re-entry rates and for next steps in addressing the problem are provided. (October 2005)
  • Pennsylvania: Family Reunification Through Visitation
    This online curriculum from the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh aims to train child welfare professionals in developing successful visitation plans and utilizing strategies for enhancing caregiver involvement in the process in order to increase the opportunity for achieving reunification. (July 2006)
  • Washington:
    • Family Reunification in Washington State: Which Children Go Home and How Long Does It Take?
      This research brief looks at part of a study from Partners for Our Children (POC), in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)/Children’s Administration (CA), that aimed to identify child, parent, and placement related factors that could predict family reunification. Findings from the study show parents with greater personal assets (education) and resource assets (housing), as well as parents who trusted their social workers and saw the potential benefits of child welfare involvement were likely to have faster reunification rates. By Maureen Marcenko, Maureen Newby and Joseph Mienko, Partners for Our Children at the University of Washington, and Mark Courtney, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. (August 2011)
    • Successful Family Reunifications: The Power of Stories
      A report from the Successful Family Reunification Project, sponsored by the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, Court Improvement Program, and Catalyst for Kids that features families in Washington State who share challenges they faced in reunification, their insights into what led to their success, and their suggestions for helping more families succeed. (September 2006)


  • Child Welfare Information Gateway: Family Reunification
    This section of the Child Welfare Information Gateway website offers information and resources related to family reunification, including specific sections on engaging parents in reunification, reunification assessment, reunification with substance-abusing parents, preventing re-entry, and State and local examples.
  • National Reunification Month 
    Featured on the American Bar Association website, this page includes information about National Reunification Month, tools for planning your reunification celebration, and research and information about reunification. National Reunification Month celebrates the accomplishments and dedication of parents/caregivers who have successfully reunified with their children after placement in foster care.


Last updated 11/5/13