§4 ch10: Permanency Through Reunification
10.10 Recommending Reunification
Whenever possible, the goal of out-of-home care will be a timely family reunification.
Family reunification is one of several permanency planning goals that may be recommended by the Family Support Team (FST)/Permanency Planning Review Team (PPRT) for children in out-of-home care. Once family reunification is identified as the permanency goal, a reunification plan for the child shall be developed. This reunification plan shall include a Written Service Agreement, CD-14B, which addresses the child’s health care, and specific services that will be provided to the family during the reunification period after the child has been placed back with the family of origin. Family reunification may be recommended as soon as the family has met the treatment goals and the Family Support Team/PPRT determines that:
- The family can meet the minimal physical and emotional needs of the child with, supportive services if needed; and
- Needed supportive services are available and the family will utilize such services.
NOTE: 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.; Section 211.038 RSMo.; and Section 452.412 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.
The Children’s Service Worker will notify the family court, in writing, of the FST/PPRT’s recommendation to reunify the family.
The family court must respond with a court order authorizing the change in custody prior to any change in placement occurring. A formal hearing may or may not occur. Custodial arrangements and Children’s Division’s responsibilities will vary with each court order. The order for family reunification usually will be for one of the following:
- Court continues jurisdiction with physical custody granted to the parent and with legal custody retained by the Children’s Division.
- Court continues jurisdiction with legal custody granted to the parent(s) and with the Children’s Division ordered to provide supervision.
- Court grants legal custody to the parent and terminates jurisdiction.
10.10.1 Family Reunion Services
Following the return of the child the Division shall provide services to the family to facilitate successful reunification and monitor the care the child receives. Services identified to support the family during the reunification period should be offered to the family, if needed, when the court terminates jurisdiction immediately. However, acceptance of services is voluntary on the part of the family.
Through family reunion, with its intensive services, it is possible to recommend that a child be returned home. Families that can participate in the project must meet the following criteria:
- Goal is to return child(ren) to family AND this is not possible in the next six (6) months without extensive services;
- Safety issues preventing the child(ren)’s return have been identified;
- Family court agrees to return the child(ren) if family reunion is involved;
- Parent(s) and child(ren) are willing to participate in the project; and
- The family has not been involved with Intensive In-Home Services in the past six (6) months.
If the FST/PPRT and/or Children’s Service Worker and supervisor agree that the family qualifies for, and could successfully reunify if services are provided, the referral information should be entered into FACES using the Family Reunion Services (FRS) Information Screen. To add information, select the “Add FRS Function” button. The FRS screen may be printed and given to the family reunion coordinator who will present it to the pre-screening panel for review. The pre-screening panel (Children’s Division, Legal Aid, CASA and Juvenile Court/Family Court (JCFC) Legal Unit) will review the referral information and accept or reject the referral. If the referral is accepted, the case will be given to the family reunion specialist and Children’s Division worker for a complete screening. Once it is clear that the family will benefit from the services and the enrollment criteria has been met, the case will be referred to the family court where their legal unit will initiate action with the commissioner involved. The family reunion coordinator requests the detention hearing returning the children to the family. The hearing will be held within two (2) weeks. A review hearing will be scheduled approximately 90 days from the detention hearing. A second review hearing will be held 60-90 days from the first review hearing to determine if the family can be released from jurisdiction.
The Children’s Service Worker is responsible for ensuring a smooth transition for everyone involved. Although the family reunion specialist will be the primary person working with the family, the worker should meet the family reunion specialist and the family weekly and attend all staffings. Staffings are generally held every two (2) weeks.