Abstract: Incarcerated parents attempting to reunify with their children in foster care can find it difficult to complete the activities on their court-ordered case plans, such as drug treatment services and visitation with children. Although much has been written regarding the obstacles that are likely to interfere with reunification for incarcerated parents, very little quantitative research has examined the topic. This study uses secondary data to examine the incarceration experiences and reunification outcomes of a sample of 225 parents in one large urban California county. In multivariate analysis controlling for problems and demographics, incarcerated parents were less likely to reunify with their children; however, service use appeared to mediate this relationship, as the negative association between incarceration and reunification did not persist when service use was included as a variable in the model. Suggestions are made for policy and practice changes to improve reunification outcomes for this population of parents.
Abstract: Only about half of parents attempting to reunify with their children in foster care succeed in their efforts. Parents are ordered by the court to use treatment services in order to resolve their problems. These treatment services thus play a critical role in reunification, and in fact the use of services appropriately matched to parents’ problems has been found to be associated with a greater likelihood of reunification. However, there is little in the literature regarding the specific requirements of reunification case plans, and whether they are accurately targeted at reunifying parents’ problems. This mostly descriptive study uses case file data to examine the relationship between parental problems and case plan requirements for a sample of parents reunifying with their children in one large urban California county. Findings show that most reunifying parents had multiple problems, and were required to attend approximately 8 service events per week. There was a positive correlation between the total number of concerns (treatment problems and life challenges) and required weekly service events. While 85% of parents were ordered treatment services for all their identified problems, over 30% were ordered services targeting problems they were not known to have. Overall, 58% of parents were ordered both all appropriate and only appropriate services. Implications for policy and practice are discussed, including the need for models of service delivery that limit the burden of accessing multiple service locations for reunifying parents.
Abstract: As mandated by federal law, parents whose children have been removed due to abuse or neglect receive reunification services for up to 12 months. In 1996, California passed AB1524, limiting the length of time parents of very young children can receive reunification services to only 6 months. The effects of this shift in child welfare policy are unknown. While some have heralded restrictions on reunification timelines as better meeting the developmental needs of children, others have expressed concern that shortened time frames may not accommodate realistic recovery processes for substance-abusing parents or facilitate reunification for African American children, who historically have experienced poorer permanency outcomes. This study examines the effects of AB1524 for children under three on outcomes of reunification and adoption, focusing particularly on African American children and children of substance abusing parents.
Abstract: Providing “reasonable efforts” to help parents reunify with children removed due to maltreatment is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the public child welfare system. Surprisingly little is understood about the nature and effectiveness of these services (Wulcyzn, 2004), despite their importance in improving child and family well-being. However, a growing body of research examines the role of services in reunification: studies suggest that service compliance (Smith, 2003) and use of services matched to parental problem (Choi & Ryan, 2007) increase the likelihood of reunification for substance abusing parents. However, some reunification services such as counseling and parenting classes are not targeted to specific problems such as mental health issues, substance abuse or domestic violence, but instead are commonly ordered to most parents. It is not established that these “general” services aid parents in resolving their problems and reunifying. It is possible that for families with complex and multiple problems, these services add to the “service burden” without substantial benefit, and hinder rather than facilitate reunification. Therefore, the objective of this study is to explore the effects of parents’ full utilization of counseling and parenting classes on the likelihood of reunification. The research questions were: 1) Does full utilization of parenting and counseling services increase the likelihood of reunification? and 2) Does the effect of these services vary by parental problems of mental illness, substance abuse or domestic violence? It is hypothesized that the benefit of these services varies by the nature of parental problems: parents with these problems will benefit less than parents without them.
Abstract: The child welfare practice innovation of concurrent planning attempts to shorten the length of time abused or neglected children stay in foster care before either returning home or finding a new permanent home through adoption or guardianship. Concurrent planning is expected to decrease children’s time in care; however, there is very little quantitative research on concurrent planning's effects. This study uses a sample of 885 children, a retrospective longitudinal design and multivariate analyses to examine the influence of discrete concurrent planning practice elements on child welfare outcomes of reunification and adoption. Findings show some concurrent planning elements to be positively associated with adoption, and others to be negatively associated with reunification. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Abstract: When children are removed from parents due to maltreatment, federal law requires states to make “reasonable efforts” to help parents resolve their problems. These efforts take the form of reunification services programs providing services such as substance abuse or mental health treatment. Shifting priorities in child welfare in the last decade have resulted in states’ reducing timeframes for parents to receive reunification services. This combined with the increasing complexity of parents’ problems heightens the importance of service effectiveness. Yet surprisingly little research has been conducted on reunification services. Research on treatment services rarely uses child welfare populations, while research on reunification rarely includes details on services. This exploratory study examines the following research questions: 1) What services are ordered for parents in the child welfare system? 2) Does parents’ utilization of services ordered affect the likelihood of successful reunification? 3) Does service effectiveness vary by parental characteristics?
Abstract: The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) includes provisions to deny reunification services under specified conditions and gives states latitude to develop any number of additional "aggravated circumstances" in which parents need not be offered services. California legislators have developed a relatively large number of conditions enabling agencies to bypass reunification services. Based upon a case record review involving 1,055 parents, this study attempt to identify the proportion of parents eligible for a reunification bypass, the proportion recommended to the courts, and the proportion of parents who were denied reunification services, and examines the characteristics of parents associated with reunification bypass recommendations. Based upon focus groups and interview with child welfare and judicial personnel in six counties, the study also examines the implementation of reunification bypass provisions. Implications for public policy and practice are provided.