When children must be removed from their home due to abuse, neglect, or other family challenges, child welfare professionals’ first goal is to safely reunite them with their families as soon as possible. Child welfare agencies assign workers to the child and family, ensure frequent visits, use evidence-based strategies, and provide family therapy and parent education. Services are tailored to each family’s circumstances and address issues that led to the children and parents being involved in the child welfare system.
Earlier this year, we shared that, compared to national averages, there are too many children in Kansas foster care. The number of Kansas youth in foster care has grown 48% over just six years. For this reason, we shared our perspective on the top child welfare system challenges and solutions. One of our recommended solutions was the creation of a special family reunification pilot that would add support for children who entered foster care for non-abuse/neglect reasons. We’re happy to report, that pilot program is now underway and receiving positive feedback.
When a Safe Family Reunification Is the Goal
The most common outcome for children in foster care is a safe reunification with their families. Nationwide, more than half of youth who enter foster care are safely reunited. The average length of time a child is in foster care is about a year, but much of this is dependent on how long it takes for the family to resolve their conflicts or disruptions and demonstrate that their home is safe for their child to return home.
Recently, KVC Kansas began a pilot initiative called Safely Home. At this stage, the pilot is only in Johnson County, and each new case referred is carefully considered to determine if it will be a good service plan fit for the pilot. As a part of Safely Home, a therapeutic social worker works alongside the case management team, the family, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the court system and any other involved parties and/or community partners to help develop short-term goals to aid in children reintegrating safely home in the exact right moment for the family. Frequent, robust staffing and task coordination occurs with all team members taking charge of specific tasks to work towards goal attainment. It is KVC’s hope that, with this additional service plan, families whose reintegration needs are not related to safety can be reintegrated well within the national timeline standards and in such a manner that reintegration can be successfully maintained.
“I have had positive feedback from parents so far with the Safely Home Program. Parents have stated that they love the idea of setting short-term goals to progress reunification. Sometimes, the reintegration process can be so daunting to some parents, so I’m truly hoping this helps them feel more at ease in such a highly stressful time.” – Rita Ford, Safely Home Facilitator
KVC Kansas will continue to evaluate the Safely Home pilot. If it is successful and enough resources are available, KVC hopes to expand it to serve more children and families.
Last year, KVC Kansas helped 1,030 children safely reunite with their 634 families after being in foster care. To learn more about our reunification programs, click here