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The Road to Reunification: Family- and State System-Factors Associated with Successful Reunification for Children Ages Zero-to-Five

LaBrenz, Catherine A; Fong, Rowena; Cubbin, Catherine – 2020

Background: Research suggests that up to one-third of children who reunify re-enter care because of continued maltreatment. For young children, this is particularly detrimental due to rapid brain development during the first years of life.Objective: This study examined family- and state child welfare system predictors of successful reunification, or reunification with no reentries into foster care.Methods: A sample of N=53,789 from the 2012 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System of children ages zero-to-five who reunified was utilized. Children were tracked over the following three years and a multilevel model was run to compare family- and state system-factors among those that successfully and unsuccessfully reunified.Results: Only 4.6 % of the variance in successful reunification was at the state child welfare system level. After adjusting for family-factors, state average time-to-reunify (OR=1.04, p<.05) and violent crime rates (OR=1.00, p<.01) were associated with successful reunification. A random effect for race and ethnicity and parental drug use suggests that the relationship between race and ethnicity and successful reunification, and parental drug use and successful reunification, varies significantly by state child welfare system.Conclusions: Given these findings, practitioners and child welfare agencies should prioritize family-centered interventions. Future research could identify which state child welfare systems have successfully improved outcomes for families of color and families with histories of drug abuse. (Author abstract)