Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: Mothers Making a Change Program . 2.3 Barriers to Reunification

12/01/2001

The director of women's services for MMAC reports that finding good, affordable, and safe permanent housing for families is the most difficult barrier encountered to reunification. Located outside Atlanta, Cobb County is a middle-class suburban area with a lack of affordable housing. Many clients entering the program are homeless, and given the high cost of rent, women fear having to go back to the same unsafe environments they lived in prior to their substance abuse recovery and reunification. Wait lists for section 8 housing in the county are very long. Child care for clients leaving the program can also be a problem, however many client's child care is provided through TANF services. The strongest predictor to re-entry into the CPS system for a family is lack of community and family support. MMAC staff hope to have instilled self-esteem and a sense of community belonging to clients served in its program. In addition, the program's coordination with services in the community helps to provide resources for clients leaving the program.

The decision of whether to make a recommendation for reunification is based on an assessment made by a multi-member team of MMAC staff. Members of the team include the residential site coordinator, site supervisor, clinical staff personnel, a physician, the program nurse, the child care staff, and a CPS worker. Members come together to assess and work up a proposal for CPS review, then the group of MMAC staff and the CPS worker come together to develop a plan. Once again, the close relationship that MMAC staff have with DFCS workers plays a key role in coordination of a decision on reunification. Reunification recommendations are based on the assessment of a client's compliance with treatment and willingness to work toward case goals, random urine screening results, how long the parent has been clean, observed interaction with the children, and how well the parent is likely to cope with reunification once it takes place. If the client is placed in residential treatment, staff also consider the client's observance of facility rules. After all these factors are considered and if the recommendation is made for reunification, MMAC staff will go to court and recommend reunification and support the client in these efforts. CPS, with MMAC input, makes the final decision as to when a case will close. However, MMAC may maintain contact and support once a case is closed.