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April 2002Vol. 3, No. 3New Family Reunification Assessment Tool Now Available

In trying to safely reunite children with their families, child welfare agency administrators often ask the following:

  • What are the significant factors involved in planning for reunification?
  • Is there a research-based tool that can predict successful or failed reunifications?
  • Is training available for reunification workers?

These issues are addressed in the National Family Preservation Network's (NFPN's) reunification assessment tool and training. For the past 2 years NFPN, in collaboration with Dr. Ray Kirk from the University of North Carolina, has been developing and field-testing a reunification assessment tool, the NCFAS-R. The tool is based on Dr. Kirk's earlier development of a tool to assess family functioning in Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) settings. He found that tool to be effective in measuring family functioning, and improvement in family functioning, in turn, is statistically associated with placement prevention.

To tailor the assessment process for reunification cases, Dr. Kirk added two new domains, caregiver/child ambivalence to reunification and readiness for reunification. Dr. Kirk's research report on the tool contains these findings:

  • Field-testing demonstrated reliability and validity of the tool
  • Child welfare workers responded positively to using the tool
  • The tool identifies both problem areas and family strengths and aids in developing a service plan
  • IFPS-based interventions are effective for reunification cases—70 percent of the families were successfully reunited
  • Successful or failed reunifications strongly relate to differences between intake and closure scores
  • The most dramatic shifts are improvements in family safety and child well-being

The field-test results are supportive of the efficacy of the NCFAS-R and the use of IFPS-based interventions for reunification cases. Additional field-testing will be conducted through May, 2002. The research report on the tool may be viewed at NFPN's website (

NFPN is offering a training package consisting of the tool, database software and guide, and training video and practitioner's guide. Consultation on use of the tool is also available. For more information, please contact Priscilla Martens, NFPN's Executive Director, via email at or by phone at 888-498-9047.