Family Reunification and Reintegration

Most children in residential care globally have at least one parent or close family member who is still living. In many cases, these family members could care for their children if given the right support. Family reunification is the process of reintegrating a child back into his or her birth family. Reunification is considered the best option for children leaving residential care—but only if and when it is deemed safe and appropriate after thorough child and family assessment.

Child-centered reunification is multilayered and begins with assessing both the root causes of separation and the current circumstances of the family. In cases where a child has lost contact with the family and the family’s location is unknown, this process begins by tracing the family with the help of trained case workers, media outreach, site visits to the community of origin, and consultation with local authorities.

Family reunification is not a one-time event. It requires extensive collaboration to determine if reunification is in the child’s best interests, identifying and facilitating appropriate family-strengthening services, preparing the child and family, supervising preplacement communication and visits to encourage reconnection, and offering regular postplacement follow-up support.

Reunification is not always possible or appropriate. When reuniting a child with his or her birth family is determined to be unsafe or not in the best interests of a child at any stage in the process, then alternative forms of family care—kinship care, foster care, or adoption—should be considered.

Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration Includes guidance on stages of reintegration (both emergency and nonemergency contexts), case management process, working with family, post-reunification support and monitoring, and reintegration within the wider continuum of child protection. (Family for Every Child)

Reaching for Home: Global Learning on Family Reintegration in Low and Lower-Middle Income Countries Synthesizes learning from a multitude of reports, studies, and programming documents around issues related to children separated from parental care, particularly those children in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Topics include assessment, reintegration planning, preparation, reunification, post-reunification support, and promising practices. (Interagency Group on Reintegration et al.)

Standard Operating Procedures: Family Reintegration Features guiding principles, key terms, key steps, evaluation, and further reading, with a focus on street children. (Retrak)

Achieving Positive Reintegration: Assessing the Impact of Family Reintegration Tells about the impact of reintegration of children from five transitional shelters into their families. Explores key factors that contribute to positive, stable outcomes for reintegrated children. (Friends International)

Toolkit for Practitioners: Care Planning and Family Reunification Forms and Guidance Includes a searchable resource section on evaluating children’s developmental needs, parenting capacity, and family and environmental factors affecting wellbeing in care. (Better Care Network)

Community Based Social Work with Children and Families: A Manual on Prevention and Reintegration Provides information on how to assess and support families, prevent institutionalization, and reintegrate children with their parents. Includes case studies, technical guidance, and a range of forms on case planning, interviewing, recording, project monitoring, child protection incidents, and chairing planning meetings. (Save the Children UK)

Webinars & Podcasts

Family Reintegration: Achieving Balance Between Empowering Families and Safeguarding Children Includes steps of case management practice for the reintegration of children. (Christian Alliance for Orphans)

A Conversation with Family for Every Child on Reintegration: Part 1 & Part 2 Emily DeLap with Family for Every Child provides a substantial overview of the cross-cutting principles for successful reintegration and what needs to be in place for healthy reunification of children with their families.

More Resources