March 2013Vol. 14, No. 2Engaging Kin and Reasonable Efforts
An article in the Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy focuses on the definition of "reasonable efforts" as it is used in the child welfare field and suggests that kinship engagement should be a key part of the reasonable efforts determination. The authors define the term as "a judicial finding that is required to be made during certain pivotal court hearings once a child has been removed from the child's home or is at risk of removal." However, because there is no definition for the term in Federal law, the courts must ultimately determine what is considered "reasonable."
The authors suggest that finding and engaging a child's extended family during the child welfare process is a necessary component of the reasonable-efforts mandate. However, few State statutes include locating and involving nonoffending parents and other relatives as part of reasonable efforts. Referring parents to agency and community services is a typical approach to meeting the reasonable-efforts requirement provided by Federal law. Services alone are often not sufficient to meet this requirement, as most of the provided services are not evidence-based and are often ineffective.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 mandates that relatives must be notified within 30 days of a child's removal from his or her home. The article's authors suggest that identified relatives should be contacted immediately upon the child's removal in order to provide the family with support, encouragement, and assistance as they try to meet case plan requirements. Furthermore, the authors note that family-finding efforts can be used to meet reasonable-efforts standards; thus, if these searches are initiated early on, they can be used as evidence in reasonable-efforts assessments.
The article concludes with suggestions for different approaches for finding and engaging a child's family members.
"Unlocking Reasonable Efforts: Kinship is Key," by Rose Marie Wentz and Kelly Beck, Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, 99, is available here: