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November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8Reunification for Families With Multiple Problems

Family reunification is hampered for child welfare families dealing with additional challenges. Families with co-occurring problems, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health problems, or housing issues, have difficulty meeting child welfare requirements for reunification unless they can make progress in these other problem areas.

A recent study of 724 Illinois families involved with child welfare and also challenged by parental substance abuse tracked the services and progress of these families. Quarterly reports by child welfare caseworkers over approximately 2 years showed that most families had additional co-occurring problems beyond substance abuse: 60 percent had mental health problems, 81 percent had housing problems, and 42 percent had domestic violence problems. Families experienced an overall family reunification rate of 12 percent; however, the rate rose to 21 percent for families dealing only with substance abuse.

Findings demonstrate the importance of integrated services that are targeted to each family's individual needs. Families that could resolve or make progress in addressing one or more of their co-occurring problems increased their chances of reunification.

The full study, "Integrated Services for Families With Multiple Problems: Obstacles to Family Reunification" by J. C. Marsh, J. P. Ryan, S. Choi, and M. F. Testa, was published in the September 2006 issue of Children and Youth Services Review and can be purchased online: