Family Reunification

child hugging parents

Program Goal

The goal of Family Reunification is to provide every dependent child a safe, stable, permanent home, nurtured by healthy families and strong communities. Family Reunification services provide the parents with the best chance of success at reunification while acknowledging, recognizing and providing for the child's long-term needs for safety, stability and permanence. All child welfare practice is designed to achieve the following 4 goals. These goals are comprehensive and can only be attained through strong partnerships and shared responsibility.

  • Child Safety:All children, first and foremost, are protected from abuse and neglect. Children are safely maintained in their homes whenever possible and appropriate;

  •  Permanency and Stability:All children and youth have a legal, permanent, stable relationship with an adult caregiver who commits to meeting their developmental, emotional and educational needs, as well as transition to adulthood when appropriate;

  • Child well-being:Families receive sufficient support and services when and where they need them to provide for their children's developmental, behavioral, cultural and physical needs;

  •  Family well-being:Families demonstrate self-sufficiency and the ability to adequately meet basic family needs, including safety, food, clothing, housing, health care, and age appropriate supervision of their children.

Family Reunification Ordered

When a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents through Juvenile Court under Article 6, section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, Family Reunification services may be ordered by the Court for the parent's to regain physical custody of their child through alleviating the circumstances that led to the removal of their child. The length of Family Reunification Services is typically 6 to 12 months but can be extended to as much as 24 months.
When a child is removed from the physical custody of the parent the child is then placed in Foster Care. Placement options in the preferred order include:

  1. Relatives

  2. Non-relative extended family members (NREFM), those who are known to the child.

  3. Foster Parents

Service Delivery

Service delivery is collaborative in nature and often involves multi-disciplinary teams. We share many customers in common with other agencies and we share values such as the importance of a safe and healthy community. These shared values and collaborative relationships assist Child Welfare to provide services to children and families that are consistent with the "best practice standards of the profession".

Case Management Services

Family Reunification services are available to parents that have been offered services through the Juvenile Court. Social workers are required to assist parents with their Court ordered case plan by making referrals to programs in the community that will alleviate further risk of abuse or neglect of their child.

Social Workers are also responsible for facilitating visitation between the parents, family members and the child. Family members include but are not limited to: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Case plans are updated once every 6 months. The effective date of the Case Plan is the date the social worker"s supervisor approves and signs it. The social worker meets with the parents at least monthly if not more frequently and discusses the case progress, problems encountered and parents cooperation. The goal of the Case Plan is to alleviate the circumstances within the family that necessitated Child Welfare intervention.

Family Reunification services include but are not limited to 1) Case management; 2) Out of home placements; 3) Transportation, 4) Visitation between child, family and siblings; and 5) Referrals to Court Ordered Services (may include counseling, substance abuse counseling and testing, sexual abuse counseling, parenting training, and anger management).

The social worker must visit each dependent child and care takers in the home at least once each month and will arrange for contact with each parent a minimum of once monthly or the stated time in the case plan. Contact is required by the social worker with all service providers. The social worker must also request written reports from these professionals when their services are being provided as a part of the case plan.

Court Reports and Hearings

The law requires a comprehensive Court report and hearing every 6 months.  Hearings may occur as frequently as every 3 months to review a family's progress.

  1. 6 Month Court Review Hearing:

The Court reviews the family's progress on the Case Plan.  Reunification services can be terminated in some cases or continued. 

  1. 12 Month court Hearing (May also be the Permanency Planning Hearing).

The Court reviews the Case Plan progress and may order an additional 6 months if the parents are close to completing their Case Plan.

  1. Permanency Planning Hearing (Called 366.21, 366.22 or 366.25 Hearing).

Witnesses are frequently subpoenaed to this hearing which is held at 12, 18 or 24 months when Reunification Services are terminated.

  1. The hearing to terminate parental rights or establish guardianship is called a 366.26 hearing.

Appeals:  All court hearings may be appealed through Superior Court of the 5th District court of Appeals.


If the children cannot safely be returned home, the Social Worker must recommend one of the Permanent Plans in the following preferred order:

  1. Adoption

  2. Guardianship, or

  3. Long Term Foster Care

Team Decision Meetings (TDM's) are held to make placement decisions and/or permanent placement decisions for children at any time during reunification.  TDM's are also held for children returning to their parents.

Dependency of Children Dismissed

Clients are discharged once they have completed their case plan and the Juvenile Court dismisses dependency of their children. This occurs at their 6, 12 or 18 month hearing. If the case plan is completed within 2 to 3 months of the upcoming hearing the social worker can submit a 388 Petition to have dependency dismissed. If the Juvenile Court agrees with the petitioner, dependency will be dismissed.

At times a child will emancipate out of the Family Reunification Program upon turning the age of 18 years.