The title for this post implies that we should prevent reunification. Shouldn’t we instead promote it? Well, yes, but reunification would not be necessary if children were not removed from their families. Reunification is also more difficult to achieve than helping families stay together. How can we prevent unnecessary out-of-home placement? Let’s begin with a call to action by Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner, Children’s Bureau:
“The passage of the FFPSA (Family First Prevention Services Act) provides an opportunity and an impetus to re-examine fundamentally the child welfare system in the United States, and how it can function better to reverse harmful trends of increased entries of children into the child protection and foster care programs, family separations, and trauma to children and their parents. We strongly encourage you to use this time as an opportunity to ensure that the programs and systems you operate reflect a commitment to the integrity of the parent-child relationship and importance of preventing the trauma of unnecessary family separation. The CB believes reaching children and families sooner through prevention is the key to avoiding unnecessary trauma, disrupting intergenerational cycles of maltreatment, and achieving better outcomes for children and families.”
Now let’s look at some ways to prevent placement. One prevention practice is “blind removal meetings.” Due to the disproportionate number of black children placed in foster care, two counties in New York hold pre-placement meetings in which personal and demographic information is removed from the paperwork. These case review meetings have decreased removals of black children from 57% to 42%.
For more information on blind removal meetings visit: https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/18095 (p. 17)
The state of North Dakota is embarking on the Family Centered Engagement Initiative. The Initiative brings together parents/caregivers, extended family members, children, service providers, child welfare professionals, juvenile court staff, community partners and others involved in a child’s life. The purpose is to create an action plan with a family to keep their child out of foster care and a safety plan prioritizing kinship care if the child must be removed. Families are engaged earlier in decision making and their strengths and need for services identified and addressed.
For more information visit https://www.thevillagefamily.org/content/family-centered-engagement
Home Visitation has become a nationwide initiative. The highest rating for Evidence-Based Practice in home visitation goes to the Nurse-Family Partnership. Specially trained nurses regularly visit young, first-time moms-to-be, starting early in the pregnancy, and continuing through the child’s second birthday. It is the most effective intervention to prevent child abuse and neglect.
For more information on the research on the Nurse-Family Partnership visit https://evidencebasedprograms.org/programs/nurse-family-partnership/
There is a bonus to the home visiting program if fathers are involved. Families whose fathers participated in at least one home visit were enrolled nearly seven months longer than families whose fathers did not participate in any home visits. https://childandfamilyresearch.utexas.edu/retaining-families-home-visiting-programs-promoting-father-participation
The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has just issued a memo to encourage all human services agencies to prioritize father engagement as a critical factor in strengthening families. The memo lists the benefits of father involvement in the lives of children including family stability and social and emotional well-being.
To view the memo visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/acffatherhoodim_final.pdf
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director