What is Reunification?
Reunification is the return of a child to the care of their birth family. Reunification decisions are made by the relevant children’s court following consideration for the child’s safety, wellbeing and best interests by all the stakeholders involved.
Reunification is the process of providing assistance to the child, their carer’s and their family to help the child and their family reunify. Reunification can occur with either the child’s parents, or other relatives. It requires the withdrawal of the statutory authority and LWB from the child’s life over time.
Usually when a sibling group is in out of home care, reunification will be considered for all the children in the family.
Why have a goal of reunification?
Child protection legislation requires departments to have a focus on keeping children with their family, and to return them if removal has been necessary.
Child Protection legislation contains various principles that apply to the reunification process, including
- The best interests of the child must always come first
- Children should participate in decisions about their lives as much as possible
- Children are best raised within their own family where possible and all efforts to achieve this should be made
- Most families can care for their children, when given the right assistance to do so
- Children have a right for their families to be supported and helped to care for them
- When family members are genuinely unable to safely care for their children a long term stable alternative should be found
- Involvement of all members of a child’s family including parents, siblings, relatives or other significant people including carers, is needed
- The child’s attachments and need for relationships with family and others who are significant to them should be recognised
Reunification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
It is particularly important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children get the opportunity to be reunified given the history of the stolen generation and trauma.
This includes ensuring
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are encouraged and supported to participate in decisions which are made about their lives
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are placed in out of home care in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Placement Principle
- Family and cultural connections are maintained during placements
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relative carers are given support to care for the children who live with them
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups are encouraged to participate in the protection and care of their children with as much self-determination as possible
Your role in the reunification process
You have an active role in supporting children and their families through the reunification process. You have valuable insights and experiences in relation to the children you care for. These contribute to the ongoing assessment of a child’s strengths as well as any safety concerns.
Evidence suggests that carers can play a crucial role in supporting parents, family and children to reunify in a range of ways. Talk to your care team about what you can do.
If you have concerns about a reunification decision
If you have concerns about aspects of a reunification process for a child talk to your care team.
Looking after yourself
You might find it difficult when a placement ends through a process of reunification. It may be hard to say goodbye. You or someone in your family may be feeling very sad. Depending on the circumstances, it can be very helpful for children if you stay connected to them once they have gone home. Every case is different but don’t feel like it has to be a forever goodbye.
Be proud of your achievements while the child was with you and of the child themselves. Looking after your own family is important too. Look at the positives and consider the benefits of what you were all able to give the child while you were caring for them.
Talk to your care team if you need extra support.