Returning children in care to their families: Factors associated with the speed of reunification

  • Fernandez E
  • Lee J
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Various factors influence children's tenure in protective care.The current study examined whether the speed of reunification with parents differs by reasons in care and social environment at intake. The effects of age and sex of the child and referral source were also examined. The study sample consists of 155 children aged 0-12 years from 92 families, who presented at Barnardos temporary care services in two metropolitan areas in Australia. Participants continuously entered the study over the 4 year study period from 1 Jan 2003 to 31 Dec 2008, the study window being 18months since the intake. Drawing on event history analysis models two analyses were conducted: one focusing on the primary reason in care and another focusing on a risk typology based on the North Carolina Family Assessment Scale-Reunification (NCFAS-R). The risk typology developed through latent profile analysis grouped families with similar profiles of social environmental risks together. Children were reunified with their parents rapidly at the beginning until week 13 and the rate became slower but steady until the end of study period. Compared to children with parental health issues, children with parental substance abuse issues had 86% lower rate, children who experienced abuse/neglect had 83% lower rate of return, children from domestic violence situations or other issues had 73% lower rate of reunification with their parents. Compared to children with low risks in their social environment, children with high risks had 73% lower speed of reunification with their parents. The rate of reunification with parents was higher for older children whereas there was no difference on the speed of reunification by child's sex or the source of referral. The implications for policy, practice, and research are discussed. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Event history analysis
  • Foster care
  • Latent profile analysis
  • Out of home care
  • Reunification

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