Most families can safely care for their children, though some may need additional support. When a child is removed from the home for their safety and well-being, federal legislation such as the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and related New Jersey laws, policies and practices ensure family reunification is a priority. Out-of-home placement (foster care) is intended to provide a safe and temporary solution until the family has the opportunity to do what is necessary for the safe and timely return home.
Our annual report provides data and trends on how long children and youth stay in out-of-home care. Longer stays are associated with issues related to bonding and attachment, behavioral difficulties and poor school performance. Youth and children who experience multiple placements are at increased risk of exiting out-of-home placement without attaining permanency. Data makes a case for the need of continued progress in the timeliness in which reunification is achieved.
Sixty days after a child is placed out-of-home CPR board volunteers review the case. The review determines if the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) is making reasonable efforts to return the child home. CPR board volunteers recommend appropriate services, such as individual and family counseling, parenting instruction or substance abuse and mental health evaluations and treatment. For youth 14 years old and above, independent living may be recommended.
Occasionally, CPR board volunteers may recommend that reunification is not in the best interests of the child. CPR board volunteers also establish if an alternative permanent placement, referred to as concurrent planning, is being pursued by the caseworker should reunification not be viable.
So that CPR boards can make meaningful recommendations to judges, we provide training for CPR board volunteers on issues relevant to reunification, including the importance of bonding, regular parent and sibling visitations, engaging families as partners in permanency planning and decision making, and children in court hearings. We were among the first to shine a spotlight on the unique reunification issues faced by immigrant and migrant populations.
Legal Services of New Jersey, Unification Day
Video: David Kelly, Special Assistant for the Children's Bureau at Family Unification Day 2019
Video: The Honorable David Katz at Family Unification Day 2019
Video: The Honorable Sallyanne Floria at Family Unification Day 2019
Video: Caseworkers and Parents: Heroes Together Saving Families and Homes (2019)
Video: Family Unification Day Celebration (2020)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Information Gateway
Reasonable Efforts to Preserve or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children (includes NJ statute) (2019)
Bonding with Your Baby
Bulletin: Supporting Successful Reunification (2017)
New Jersey Department of Children and Families
Video: Kinship Care, An Alternative to Foster Care (2015)