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What Are Family Reunification Services in a CPS Case?

In cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS), the primary goal is always to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. However, it is also recognized that preserving the family unit, whenever possible, is in the best interest of the child. In reference to California welfare and institution code, section 300, the meaning of reunification is defined as the process of reuniting the child with his family by balancing the best interest of the juvenile. The law states that the juvenile’s interests should not be compromised in any manner, and thus, the family reunification process is the best solution for it. CPS Law Group’s approach is based on two decades of advocacy for parents in these cases.

Family reunification services should be tailored to specifically address problems the family faces. However, the number of families in the system and limitations on resources often lead to a cookie cutter approach. An experienced attorney can help the client focus the direction of their services and advocate that specific issues be addressed. Counsel can also advocate against unnecessary services or recommend useful services. When parents come back to court, they want to make sure they have addressed the underlying issues so no barriers exist to reunfication.

Family reunification services, as outlined in California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300, are court-mandated services aimed at facilitating the safe reunification of a child with their parents or legal guardians after a CPS intervention. The listed issues are the reasons that led to these services in case of removal of a child and to enhance the well-being and best interest of both family and child as a whole.  

Dependency: A situation where a child is considered at a risk due to factors of abuse, neglect or violence by parents or guardians. These kids are subjected to court protection.

Case plan: A detailed plan developed by CPS and the court outlining the specific services and actions required to address the issues identified in the dependency case.

Reunification services: Services that are specifically designed to help the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) address the issues that resulted in the child’s removal and work toward ensuring the child’s safe return to their custody.

Case example: Mr. F., was a father with a stable income whose parental rights were terminated by the court. Subsequently, the court of appeal reversed the decision stating that the father was not given adequate reunification services to improve parenting skills. According to the law, the mandatory duties that are supposed to be given to the father with limited limitations could have improved his potential to be a good parent. The petitioner himself asked for assistance in improving and was only provided untailored reunification services.  In this case, the department failed to fulfill its duties and infringed upon the rights and best interests of the child and father. Now, as referred to in this case, if adequate reunification services were to be offered to him, there could have been a good outcome to this case. 

Examples of Reunification Services

  • Parenting classes are the primary service. Parents can improve their ability to parent by using the skills and knowledge, including child development, effective methods of punishment, communication skills, and setting up a secure and caring environment for the child. 
  • Family therapy or specialized counseling is provided, based on the difficulties at hand, which may include abuse, neglect, violence, or other relevant matters. 
  • When it comes to mental health, the court mandates mental health treatment so that the parent and kid can use resources for mental health, therapy, and medicine to assist them in dealing with the issue. 
  • Substance abuse treatment: If the case is around the abuse, then the parents are liable for substance abuse treatment that includes programs to help and analyze the patterns that are harmful and need changes, such as human behavior, getting over an addiction, and others. 
  • In-Home Coaching to assist the parent in working through specific parenting issues in the family home
  • AA/NA meetings to maintain sobriety and engage with a supportive, sober community.
  • They get access to community resources, including housing aid, job training, financial or mental health counseling, and rehabilitation services.
  • Other Tailored Services to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Reunification services for families are crucial in CPS cases because they assist with the needs and interests of the child and the parents or guardians. Mental and emotional development is promoted by programs like counseling, behavioral pattern recognition, anger or stress management, coping mechanisms, and communication skills. If these services are given to a parent, they learn techniques to avoid abusive or negligent behavior to get back together with the child. 

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