§4 ch10: Permanency Through Reunification
10.1 Legal Basis
Public Law 96-272, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of l980, states that "in each case, reasonable efforts will be made: "Reasonable efforts means the exercise of reasonable diligence and care by the Division to utilize all available services related to meeting the needs of the juvenile and the family."
- Prior to the placement of a child in foster care to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his home, and
- To make it possible for the child to return to his home. In order to make "reasonable efforts," a case plan must be developed. The purpose of the case plan is to assure that a child in placement receives proper care; that services are provided to the parents, child and placement provider in order to improve the conditions in the parents' home; to facilitate return of the child to his own home or to another permanent placement, and to address the needs of the child while in foster care, including a discussion of the appropriateness of the services that have been provided to the child under the plan."
Chapter 211.183, RSMo, asserts that in juvenile court proceedings the Children’s Division (CD) shall have the burden of demonstrating "reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child and, after removal, to make it possible for the child to return home. If the first contact with the family occurred during an emergency in which the child could not safely remain at home even with reasonable in-home services, the Division shall be deemed to have made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal."
Chapter 211.181, RSMo, provides that within 30 days of the Division receiving custody of a child, a long-range permanency treatment plan shall be developed. The following components shall be included in the long-range treatment plan:
- The type of placement which will serve the best interest and special needs of a child and provide the least restrictive setting;
- The projected length of care needed by the child and the projected cost for providing such care;
- Services needed by the child and his family to facilitate reunification and the projected cost of such services; and
- Certification from the Division director or designee that the placement and/or services recommended are available.
- Documentation that the parents have or have not been convicted of any of the felony offenses as described below:
- Section 210.117, RSMo states that no child taken into custody of the state shall be reunited with a parent or placed in a home in which the parent or any person residing in the home has been found guilty of, or pled guilty to certain violations of chapter 566 and 568 RSMo. when there was a child victim. The statutory prohibition of reunification applies as long as the juvenile court case was filed on or after August 28, 2004, regardless of the date of the individual’s conviction. All cases presenting a potentially qualifying conviction should be referred to DLS. For cases which do not present qualifying convictions to prevent reunification, CD staff should take into consideration any prior convictions of any criminal offense when determining if reunification is in the best interest of the child.
If during the provision of services, staff determine based on self disclosure or through the assessment of the parent that the parent has a known criminal history, involving any of the above stated felony convictions, the worker is to obtain two sets of fingerprints from the parent(s) and submit them to the Highway Patrol for an extensive background check prior to reunifying the child with the parent.
Restrictions on placement, custody, visitation or reunification for minors who were determined to be either a victim or a perpetrator in an incident of abuse between minors (Section 210.117 RSMo.; Section 210.710 RSMo.; Section 210.720 RSMo.; and Section 211.038 RSMo.) may present significant difficulties for workers who are working toward reunification; making placement decisions or enrolling children in Division custody in child care or in school.