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Reunification Assessment

A Reunification Assessment is a structured review to support and document the reunification decision. It includes a review of child safety, compliance with court orders, family conditions and dynamics, resources, strengths, protective capacities, child vulnerability and interventions needed. The Reunification Assessment entails a review of past and present safety, an assessment of reunification readiness, and the reunification decision.

One question at reunification is: Are there safety threats active within the family system that require external control and, if so, what controls are necessary? At reunification, it is not necessary that the threats have been resolved, but rather that they have been altered or reduced to a level whereby control within the family system is probable. A child may be able to return to a home where threats of serious harm exist if these threats can be controlled within the family.

A Reunification Assessment is completed when reunification with the removal family is being considered and the child has been placed out of the home for 30 days or more. It is completed whether the child has been in a legally authorized out-of-home placement (including custody with relative/kin) or was placed out of the home as a result of an out-of-home safety plan regardless of the custody status. The Reunification Assessment is completed regardless of the reason the child was placed out of the home and/or the custody status. If the child has been placed out of the home for less than 30 days, the information regarding the child's reunification shall be captured in the Safety Re-Assessment section of the Family Assessment or Case Review. However, nothing prohibits the completion of a Reunification Assessment when a child has been placed out of the home for less than 30 days.

Although a Reunification Assessment may be completed any time the PCSA deems appropriate or the case warrants it, regardless of the number of days the child is placed out of the home, there are times at which the Reunification Assessment shall be completed:

  • At the Safety Re-Assessment, if the safety response is modify or discontinue and the child has been placed out of the home for 30 days or more.
  • Within 30 days prior to any court hearing where the agency is anticipating the child will be returned home.

Completion of the Reunification Assessment is not required when placement is being considered with an individual that was not the removal home. The home evaluation (relative/kin approval process) for the individual being considered as a placement option would be completed to ensure the appropriateness of the placement.

Assessing Past and Present Safety

This section addresses the original safety issues which resulted in the child(ren)'s placement and whether these issues have been altered or reduced to a sufficient level whereby control within the family is probable. Also included is a consideration if any additional safety threats were identified which necessitated or continued the placement and if these additional safety threats have now been resolved or reduced. There is also a discussion regarding whether the parent/guardian/custodian is compliant with court orders.

If the child was placed out of the home due to unruly/delinquent behaviors, these behaviors and the effects these behaviors had on the child's vulnerability should be discussed. An explanation should also be provided that describes why the protective capacities of the parent(s) could not mitigate the need for the child to be placed out of the home.

Assessing Reunification Readiness

This section assesses whether the child(ren) and/or the parent have demonstrated an acceptance of the reunification plans and whether the parent has the capacity to provide for the child. Also assessed is whether the parent is willing and able to use his/her protective capacities, resources or strengths to provide support to the child(ren) and whether the parent is able to meet the child(ren)'s need for safety as evidenced during visitation.

The caseworker is also asked to describe how the family dynamics will change when the child(ren) return home and if there are any issues or concerns related to other children or adults in the family that may impact reunification.

Reunification Decision

Considering the past and present safety issues, family's reunification readiness, each child's vulnerability, family and community protective capacities, family cooperation and motivation, agency monitoring capacity, past history, accessibility and availability of resources, the caseworker reaches a recommendation whether or not the child(ren) should be reunified.

The Reunification Assessment assists caseworkers in determining services necessary for the child(ren) to return home safely. These services should be aimed at maintaining the child(ren) home safely without the need for the child(ren) to return to an out-of-home placement. The caseworker should indicate any services necessary to support the reunification plan.

A case plan amendment may be completed to reflect the child(ren)'s reunification if the child(ren) was in substitute care. If the interventions stated above are not already identified in the case plan, the amendment must also reflect these additional services.