Family and Children's
18, No. 3
Reunification and Collaboration with the Courts
Reprinted from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012
Courts have an essential role in determining if and when parents are reunited with their children. When the court and agency approach reunification collaboratively, they present a single, coherent path for families to follow in order to regain custody of their children. Some strategies for such collaboration include:
- Cross-system, joint, and multidisciplinary training, with trainers from both systems, helps staff in both systems understand their roles in achieving shared outcomes, expands communication, builds respect and trust, and breaks down resistance to working together. Implementation projects of the Court Improvement Project (http://apps.americanbar.org/abanet/child/natsum/nationalcat.cfm?catid=15&subid=46) reveal a wide range of subjects being pursued through collaborative training efforts.
- Sharing data enables both systems to understand roadblocks to timely reunification and allows managers and court personnel to work creatively to overcome those challenges. Other benefits are described in a New York Court Improvement Project report at http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/cwcip/Publications/BuildingBridges-TheCaseForDataShare.pdf.
- Permanency mediation, adopted by many agencies and courts, allows agency representatives and families to work with a neutral facilitator to arrive at a mutually acceptable plan.
- Competent legal representation for parents is associated with the achievement of timely reunification. Collaboration among courts, agencies, and parent groups can improve outcomes for children and families, as they have in States including Washington (http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/center_on_children_and_the_law/parentrepresentation/prp_social_worker_practice_standards_final.pdf) and New York (http://www.cfrny.org/new_legal.asp). The National Project to Improve Representation for Parents in the Child Welfare System (http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/center_on_children_and_the_law/parentrepresentation/project_description.authcheckdam.doc) is seeking to improve parent representation.
For more on this subject, see Maine's Collaboration With the Courts: Trainer's Guide at http://bit.ly/17urnrm.