Latest Research on Reunification

Check out these short research summaries on reunification and kinship care from other experts in the field and learn their implications for practice!

The road to reunification: Family- and state system-factors associated with successful reunification for children ages zero-to-five (2020)

LaBrenz, C. A., Fong, R., & Cubbin, C.

Although the child welfare system prioritizes returning children home to their families, in some cases continued child maltreatment post-reunification can result in children reentering foster care. In this study, researchers explored the factors predicting reunification not resulting in reentry into foster care.

Using data from the 2012 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, researchers tracked 53,789 children ages zero to 5 over three years after reunification.  Researchers focused on several family- and state system-factors, and found that family-level factors had the greatest impact on successful reunification. Researchers recommended practitioners focus on these individual family-level factors—which included parental substance use and mental health disorders, racial disparities, and prior contact with the child welfare system—by implementing family-centered practices.

Note: We collaborate closely with Dr. Catherine LaBrenz, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work, on our Texas Permanency Outcomes Project.

Kinship navigation: Facilitating permanency and equity for youth in child welfare (2021)

Lee, D. H. J., Huerta, C., & Farmer, E. M. Z.

When children in the foster care system are unable to return home to their parents, placements with kinship caregivers offer a way to maintain important family connections and stability. In recent years, new resources such as Kinship Navigator programs have been developed to promote kinship care and provide family caregivers with resources and support. This study sought to fill gaps in empirical evidence on the effectiveness of Kinship Navigator programs in securing permanency outcomes.

In this study, researchers examined the effects on permanency outcomes of a Kinship Navigator program offered by A Second Chance, Inc. (ASCI), a kinship foster care agency in Allegheny County, PA. Researchers compared outcomes for 471 youth participants in ASCI’s Kinship Navigator program and 637 non-Kinship Navigator participants. Results showed higher rates of Permanent Legal Custodianship for Kinship Navigation participants, as well as decreased disparities in outcomes for Black youth as compared to white youth. The study ultimately demonstrates promising results for positive permanency outcomes and mitigations of racial inequity by providing direct support for kinship caregivers.

Family reunification in child welfare practice: A pilot study of parent and staff experiences (2018)

Chambers, R. M., Crutchfield, R. M., Goddu Harper, S. G., Fatemi, M., & Rodriguez, A. Y.

Programs to promote family reunification have proliferated in recent years, but there exists a major gap in research on reunification interventions. Researchers in this study studied outcomes from the pilot initiative of Family to Family (F2F), a program led by the Department of Children and Families in Los Angeles County to support reunifying children with families. 

The F2F program was designed to engage families and communities in creating positive permanency outcomes and reunification for children. Researchers conducted interviews with 13 staff members and a survey distributed to 27 current and former parent participants, in addition to analyzing written documentation and participating in staff and community meetings. Researchers found that the structure of the F2F program, which involved small caseloads and worker continuity, fostered trusting relationships between caseworkers and parent participants. Both staff members and parents shared positive perceptions of the program, with most participants stating that their worker had clear expectations, treated them with respect, and collaborated with them on successful reunification. These findings emphasize the need to prioritize relationships between caseworkers and parents, as well as collaboration between families, practitioners, and communities.