Caseworkers' Insights And Experiences With Successful Reunification.
Jedwab, Merav. Chatterjee, Anusha. Shaw, Terry V.
Published: February 2018
Children and Youth Services Review
Vol. 86 , p. 56-63
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The decision to reunify children with their birth parents is one of the most significant decisions that caseworkers have to make in the child welfare arena. These decisions can dramatically affect the lives of children and families. Therefore, it is essential to understand reunification from the caseworkers' perspectives. The current study presents findings from a survey of child welfare caseworkers' experiences with reunifications and focuses on practices and key factors at the casework practice and at the system-environment level to assist in achieving successful reunification. The survey includes a series of statements related to successful reunification and open-ended questions. A sample of 284 caseworkers completed an online survey about their experience with reunification. Descriptive and thematic analyses were performed to analyze the caseworkers' responses. Almost all the caseworkers believed that the most important factors to ensure successful reunification is child safety, as well providing services and support to the birth family. Thematic analysis reveals several practices and key factors to assist in achieving successful reunification, including: the child's and the parents' willingness and readiness to reunify, successfully addressing the initial issues that led to separation, the child and the parents participation in the process, a quality relationship between the caseworker and the birth family, and the importance of providing services and support. However, caseworkers highlight some barriers regarding their work with substance abuse and mental health families, caseload size and the agency's requirement for lengthy documentation and paperwork. The study suggests supporting the need for caseworkers to find strategies to engage in a collaborative effort with the birth parents to work toward reunification, as well providing and allocating more resources, services, and funding to the child welfare system will help to promote reunification. (Author abstract)
family reunification; birth parents; social workers attitudes; decision making; child safety; family support systems; child welfare services; barriers; substance abusing parents; mentally ill parents; documentation; caseload