Reunification Models

Reunifying families is receiving more attention with the opioid epidemic demonstrating that there are not and never will be enough foster homes. Another incentive is Evidence-Based Practice which requires that programs demonstrate effectiveness in order to receive federal and state dollars.

So reunification, neglected for too long, is now moving to the forefront. A number of states are implementing or reviving reunification programs. Michigan is one of the states that has prioritized reunification. Here is the Michigan model in a nutshell:
• Team leader (therapist) and family worker meet with the family 4 hours a week (8 hours during the first two weeks of services)
• The team is available 24/7
• Caseload is 6 for family worker and 12 for the team leader
• Services include solution-focused therapy and skill-based intervention
• Standard length of service is 4 months with possible extension up to 6 months
• The program costs $6700 per family while foster care averages $30,000 per child
• 85% of families in the program successfully reunify

The Michigan Family Reunification Program is listed on the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare but has not yet been rated.

To read a feature article on the program visit

The most pressing social problem at this time is the opioid epidemic. One very promising model to helping families is drug treatment courts. These courts focus on families’ substance use and child welfare issues and seek to improve treatment and reunification outcomes. Children whose families participate in family drug courts spend less time in foster care and are more likely to reunify with their families (Lloyd, 2015).

For a case study of a successful family treatment court for substance abuse visit

Several states are implementing new models of reunification including Nebraska and Mississippi. A demonstration program in Missouri is being tested in one county. All of these programs have in common that service delivery is provided by a team, not an individual worker.

The team approach provides a specialist who focuses on therapeutic treatment while the other team member(s) focuses primarily on skill building. Some of the advantages to this approach may include optimal division of labor within limited resources, built-in support and consultation with each team member having first-hand knowledge of the family, and capacity to serve more families.

While these programs look promising, there is no definitive research that has established their effectiveness. The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) would welcome an opportunity to partner with a team-approach reunification program to study its effectiveness.

If your agency is interested in a partnership for a reunification study, please email or call 888-498-9047.

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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