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February 2010Vol. 11, No. 1Reintegrating Youth Who Have Severe Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Youth with severe emotional and behavioral health problems in the foster care system face special challenges in obtaining services and in reunification with family and reintegration into the community. A recent pilot project by Casey Family Programs, the Travis County Health and Human Services and Veterans Service, and the Texas Child Protective Services was designed to facilitate the reunification and reintegration of six youth in residential treatment, using a wraparound service model. Data collection methods included indepth structured case file reviews and semistructured interviews with the youth, as well as their caregivers, child protective services (CPS) caseworkers, and program staff.

The program model consisted of six steps, which started with the referral phase and ended with the case-closure phase. By the final phase, five of the six participants were reunited with family and integrated into the community, and one participant experienced a disruption in placement and was returned to the foster care system.

Project staff encountered three types of barriers when implementing this program, including:

  • System barriers
    • Insufficient collaboration with residential treatment centers
    • Lack of qualified service providers
    • Insufficient pre-reintegration contact
  • Program barriers
    • Lack of collaboration between CPS and the CPS Reintegration Pilot Project
    • Lack of cultural competency
    • Improper utilization of the model
  • Client barriers
    • Youth behaviors and caregiver ambivalence
    • Lack of assessment and preparation for reintegration
    • Financial insecurity

The authors provide recommendations to address these barriers, such as:

  • Provide training on cultural competency.
  • Increase communication among and within programs.
  • Provide clear roles for staff, partners, youth, and families.
  • Conduct a needs assessment of all participants to have a clear understanding of needs.
  • Assess the community to determine what resources and services are available.

The full report, Travis County, Texas, Child Protective Services Reintegration Pilot Project:
Final Evaluation Report,
by Elissa E. Madden, Ruth G. McRoy, Erin Maher, and Kristin Ward, is available on the Casey website: (807 KB)