• March 2006
  • Vol. 7, No. 2

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Correlations Between Reentry and Reunification

A study of the relationship between the length of time children spent in foster care and the success of reunification showed a complex correlation between the two factors. Researchers examining the relationship between reunification and reentry in 33 Oklahoma counties found that reunification within the first 30 days was associated with low rates of reentry into foster care. However, reunification after 6 months was also related to low reentry rates. Reunifications that took place between 1 month and 6 months after the initial placement into foster care were associated with the highest rates of reentry into care.

Past studies have shown a significant relationship between early reunification and higher rates of reentry. Some possible explanations for the current findings include:

  • Agencies are removing children inappropriately or for "cooling off periods," and these children are returning to their families fairly quickly.
  • In some Oklahoma counties, law enforcement officers process reports made on weekends, and the officers may be more likely to remove children, who are then returned relatively quickly when social services become involved.

Reunification and reentry rates differed dramatically among the Oklahoma counties in this study. While some of these differences may reflect differences in populations and differing risks for children, they also may be caused by differences in norms and policies among agencies, counties, and courts.

"Balancing Reunification and Reentry Goals," by T. McDonald, S. Bryson, and J. Poertner, was published in the January 2006 issue of Children and Youth Services Review and is available on the journal's website:

http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2005.02.007

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