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What happens if reunification is not possible?

'Reunification can take place only after the family has had the opportunity to carry out full child care responsibilities unsupervised and overnight and only after caseworkers and the family are confident that the child is safe in those situations’ (DHSS, 2016).

If the decision is made that a child can be safely reunified to the care of their parent, it does not mean this will happen immediately. Physical, logistical and emotional preparation must be undertaken with the child to support their transition home after being in care (NCCD, 2018). Contact needs to gradually increase from unsupervised to overnight stays. This extended time in the family home support parents to take on more responsibility for day-to-day care tasks. The parental strengths and needs assessment and the child strengths and needs assessment can help to identify what needs attention prior to the child actually returning home.

If it is assessed that reunification is not possible, discuss this with the child and their parents. Be clear about what factors, information and assessments have informed this decision. Remember that responsive, regular and active interventions with a family, including home visits, meetings, observation of contact and case plan reviews, helps to ensure the direction of decision making is clear over time. In other words, honest, inclusive and proactive practice will ensure the decision not to reunify is not a surprise. Effective communication skills and unconditional positive regard can support practitioners to navigate the emotions associated with this decision and provide opportunities to look at how best to involve parents in plans to take the alternative permanency goal forward.

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