As families make progress toward reunification, it is important child welfare agencies, courts, and other service providers work across disciplines to assess the family's strengths and needs to determine when it is safe and appropriate to return a child home. Working with the family, caseworkers examine such variables as whether the safety issues that resulted in out-of-home placement have been addressed, whether parents and children have received the services outlined in the case plan, whether parents have met other case plan requirements, whether there is a plan in place to keep children safe once they return home, and more. The following resources can help workers with assessment; they also include State and local examples.
Assessing Families for Permanency: Guidance From Research
North Carolina Division of Social Services & Family and Children's Resource Program (2013)
Children's Services Practice Notes, 19(1)
Describes key assessment areas for reunification to prevent disruptions and dissolutions in permanency.
Family Engagement Inventory
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Familiarizes professionals with how family engagement is defined and implemented across child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, education, and early education.
Parents' Pasts and Families' Futures: Using Family Assessments to Inform Perspectives on Reasonable Efforts and Reunification (PDF - 389 KB)
Smithgall, DeCoursey, Yang, & Haseltine (2012)
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
Uses family assessments conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to examine parents’ past experiences and their current functioning, based on reports of extensive childhood trauma, and implications for caseworker engagement and interventions.
Assessing Risk to Child Safety at Reunification and Case Closure (PDF - 672 KB)
North American Resource Center for Child Welfare (2011)
Provides information for Ohio caseworkers about assessing risk during reunification and case closure, including safety threats, family progress, and case closure.
California Department of Social Services Validation of the SDM Reunification Assessment (PDF - 745 KB)
Wagner & Bogie (2010)
National Council on Crime and Delinquency
Presents the findings of a validation study of California's Structured Decision Making Reunification Assessment, which aims to improve child safety and expedite permanency, preferably by reunifying the child and family.
Indiana Department of Child Services SDM Reunification Assessment (PDF - 164 KB)
Indiana Department of Child Services (2011)
Includes a structured decision-making assessment form for use by child welfare workers.
North Carolina Family Assessment Scale for Reunification (NCFAS-R): Sample Scale and Definitions
National Family Preservation Network (2009)
Evaluates the strengths and needs of families in seven domains to assess readiness for reunification of families in intensive family preservation services programs.
Returning Children Home Safely And Permanently (PDF - 355 KB)
Iowa Department of Human Services (2008)
Focuses on returning children home safely and permanently once they have been placed out of the home as a response to safety issues.
The Structured Decision Making System Policy and Procedures Manual (PDF - 875 KB)
California Department of Social Services & National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2012)
Presents Structured Decision-Making guidelines for California, including forms, definitions, and procedures for reunification reassessments (see Section VII).