Topic: Reunification Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Reunification Programs:

Reunification Programs are defined by the CEBC as programs to support the reunification of children and birth families after child welfare involvement. Almost half a million children are in foster care or other out-of-home placements in the United States. For 50% of these children, the case goal is reunification (i.e., returning them to their biological parents) as quickly and safely as possible. To assist with reunification, child welfare provides services to the child and the child's parents. These services are time-limited and intended to provide support during the reunification process. They may be geared towards addressing the causes for the child's removal and placement into foster care.

In addition to the programs specifically focused on supporting reunification, which are listed below, it is also important to keep in mind that specific services focused on the reason for removal may need be put into place during the reunification process. Common services associated with reunification include visitation between parent and child, visitation between siblings (if separated), case management services from the social worker, parent training, anger management, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment for the child and parent(s), and domestic violence services. Please note that many of these areas have been reviewed by the CEBC; please click here for a list of topic areas on the CEBC.

  • Target population: Families and youth in out-of-home placement
  • Services/types that fit: Services to address the unique needs of each family delivered in individual, group, or family formats such as visitation, case management, education, skill building, and/or service delivery
  • Delivered by: Child welfare workers, mental health professionals, or trained paraprofessionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target reunification supports for families and children in out-of-home care
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines outcomes related to reunification, such as decreased time to reunification as well as decreased disruptions and maltreatment reports after reunification
Downloadable Topic Area Summary

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of 2 - Supported by Research Evidence:

  • Homebuilders®
    Families with children (birth to 18) at imminent risk of placement into, or needing intensive services to return from, foster care, ...
  • On the Way Home (OTWH)
    Middle and high school students (12-18) with, or at-risk for, emotional and behavioral disorders transitioning from residential placements back into ...

Five Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

  • Iowa Parent Partner Approach
    [Parent Partners - Iowa]
    Parents involved with Department of Human Services’ Child Protective Services
  • Multidimensional Family Recovery (MDFR)
    [Engaging Moms Program]
    Parents with children from birth to 18 who have come to the attention of, or are involved with, the child welfare ...
  • Project Connect
    High-risk, substance-affected families involved in the child welfare system that may experience poly-substance abuse and dependence, domestic violence, child abuse ...
  • Safe Babies Court Team™, The
    Infants and toddlers up to age 3 coming under court jurisdiction and their families; and professionals engaged in disciplines touching the ...
  • TASC’s Family Recovery & Reunification Program
    Parents of children (aged 0-18) of whom custody has been taken by the State, with a drug or alcohol problem ...

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Reunification Programs topic area is relevant to child welfare because reunification services are legally required as part of child welfare services when a child is removed from their parent(s) or guardian(s). It is important that social workers understand what programs provide evidence-based services that will assist the family in making the necessary changes in order to have their children returned to their physical custody. These services are typically intensive and family-centered.

Danna Fabella, Director, Linkages Project
Child and Family Policy Institute of California
Sacramento, CA