- Slides: 19
Family Reunification: Tensions in Policy, Practice, and Human Rights Claudette Grinnell-Davis, Ph. D, MSW Haruv From the Couch Lecture May 20, 2020
Reunification O Reunification is (supposed to be) a planned -change process whereby families divided by long-term foster care reunited once a court official has determined that a family is likely to be “safe with services. ” O May be due to familial risk or child-specific risk.
Child Welfare as a Wicked Problem O “Wicked Problems” are policy and planning situations in which: O Complexity may create more problems than it O O solves if you focus on only one component. Solutions are not yes-or-no, but better or worse. There is no test of a solution, and you usually have one shot to get it right. Every problem is essentially unique – and is a symptom of another problem. The planning agent has no right to be wrong.
Child Welfare as a Wicked Problem O The lives of families involved with the child welfare system are inherently complex. O Stith et al, 2009: 39 risk factors for child abuse, 22 for neglect. O Many of the factors are interrelated. O Not one of these risk factors is either necessary or sufficient as evidence of child maltreatment.
Family Reunification as a More Wicked Policy Problem O Competing Child Rights O Right to Life/Safety vs Right to Name and Family O Competing Policy Priorities O The Identified Client/Research Subject O Permanency and Divided Attention O Adversarial vs collaborative professions O Funding Sources: Title IV and ASFA O High risk high-stakes decision-making
Family Reunification as a Wicked (Direct) Practice Problem O “Risk of remaining” vs “risk of reunification” O Preparation for Reunification During Separation O Evaluation of Readiness for Reunification O Reunification Intervention Strategies O “Reunification Paradox” in Children’s Mental Health O Prevention of Re-Entry
Intrapersonal Needs O Behavioral Health O Evidence that parents in the child welfare system have MORE diagnoses - and all in combination. O Most damaging: maternal depression O Higher prevalence of personality disorders O Substance Abuse/Misuse O Parenting Attitudes O Trauma Amelioration
Interpersonal Needs O Child-parent relationship O Especially for impulse control disorders O Parent-supports O Immediate extended family O Friends O Community connection O “Circle of Care” (Garbarino)
Parent-Child Relationship O Most of the intervention focus in the child welfare system is here. Assumptions: O CM occurs because parents aren’t bonded to their children. O CM occurs because parents can’t parent… and thus need to be instructed how to do so. O NEITHER IS NECESSARILY TRUE. O But… frequently family boundaries have been a problem.
Worker/parent discrepancy O Most significant barriers to full parental involvement with child welfare service plans: O Not feeling listened-to O Not receiving services they felt were necessary. O Most common not-received services: economic supports and housing
Family Reunification Services O Before Actual Reunification O Empathy for the parent O Extensive needs assessment O Individually-tailored constellations of service based on need. O What part of the system is targeted? O How should it be targeted? O Utilization of visitation as training ground O Foster parents as bio-parental supports
Family Reunification Services O During Reunification O Support of Ongoing Recovery O Household Reorganization/Management O Poverty Brokerage/Amelioration O Re-establishment of Trust and Boundaries O Reinforcing Parenting Skills/Self-Efficacy O Building Networks/Relationships O Planning toward the future
Predictors of successful reunification (caregiver): O Strong love for one’s children O Strong social supports O Success in drug treatment/recovery O Self-esteem (though not necessarily self- efficacy) O Spirituality O Higher income
Predictors of successful reunification (practice): O Foster care placement is stable O Children visit with both parents and siblings O Needs are met while in care. O All family members (including children) are involved in case planning. O Worker visits both children and parents regularly. O Foster parents are willing to work with birth parents.
Predictors of successful reunification (agency): O Agency has resources to offer intensive services: O Dedicated FR staff with steady tenure O Small caseloads O 24/7 crisis services O Intensive counseling built in O Incorporated into natural helping in community. O Resource brokerage O Availability of substance abuse treatment
Re-entry into care O Factors predicting re-entry: O Parental substance abuse O Parental mental illness O Substantiation is for neglect O Child is under age 5 O Child has significant mental health needs. O Usually of externalizing variety (CD, ODD)
Family Reunification Interventions O Most interventions developed for family reunification with an evidence base focus on parental substance abuse and sustaining recovery. O Not specifically trauma-informed O Other interventions either come from children’s mental health, home visitation, or pre-removal preservation O Few of these have been evaluated for use in Family Reunification O Needed: constellations of intervention evaluated for use specifically in FR.
Final thought: O Family reunification is both a policy outcome and a practice outcome. O Achieving policy outcomes is no guarantee of guaranteeing practice outcomes. O Move beyond managerial outcome measures to person-centered measures. O Prioritize the practice outcome, and the policy outcome will follow.
Contact information: Claudette L. Grinnell-Davis Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work University of Oklahoma [email protected] edu