Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: The New Jersey Natural Parent Support Program . 2.4 Barriers to Services and Reunification


Finding affordable and adequate housing is a major barrier for reunification of NPSP families, according to staff. Staff told us that housing in the state has become completely unaffordable for low-income families, if it is available at all. Substance abuse of the parent was also mentioned as an important barrier to reunification, due to the problems with finding services and then having the parent succeed without relapse within the time limits, despite reunification with the children.

Services in the region can vary widely by county. There are suburban/urban counties with adequate services, while many outlying or rural areas have very few services available. Transportation can also be an important problem. The NPSP workers can help by offering transportation with staff cars for some clients, but with so few workers and such a large area, they cannot always be available to transport clients to all services and appointments.

In addition, NPSP caseworkers mentioned ethnic and cultural practices, language, relationship problems between parent and teen child, and scarcity of services in some outlying rural areas as barriers to service delivery. One unique barrier to serving some NPSP clients is the family's apprehension that program staff will "preach" to them because services are provided by Catholic Charities.

Another issue the caseworkers discussed was the variation in attitude of the families toward the program. They have clients who are eager for services, some who are less receptive to services, and some families who do not want them in their home. The workers have found and understand that it is difficult for people to let workers into their home, particularly when they do not know them well or trust them. Therefore, when NPSP services begin, workers may not insist on meeting the client in their home but instead may meet a parent at a restaurant or other public place. Workers believe part of their job is to reach out and build a foundation with families so they can feel comfortable with services. Moreover, it can be particularly difficult when working with parents who do not have a stable home or are homeless.