Reunification: Rapid Literature Review

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Over the past two decades, a shift towards family reunification as the preferred intervention option for children/young people in state care has occurred across much of the Western world (Lietz, Lacasse & Cacciatore 2011). There has been a significant policy shift, nationally and internationally, to one that promotes reunification and seeks to reduce numbers of children and young people in out-of-home care. Trends indicate that there is a consistent upward trajectory in the number of children and young people receiving child protection services and entering out-of-home care in Australia (AIHW, 2020). In Australia, First Nations children and young people are 10.2 times more likely to experience removal than non-First Nations children whilst also being afforded opportunities to reunify at lower rates (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care [SNAICC] 2020). It is also noted that despite being recognised as a critical gap in knowledge, data regarding the prevalence of children and young people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds receiving child protection services is not currently recorded in Australia (Kaur & Atkin 2018). In Australia, reunification is determined to be ‘successful’ when a child or young person does not return to out-of-home care within a period of 12 months. According to national data, of the 3,400 children who were reunified in 2017-18, over 2,800 (82%) did not return to care within 12 months, although this proportion varied across jurisdictions and by Indigenous status (AIHW 2020). In Australia, data regarding rates of return to care after 12 months is difficult to access, however, international studies demonstrate that reunification breakdowns continue to occur 12-24 months post-reunification (Chambers et al. 2019). This suggests that if we are to gain a true understanding of reunification success in Australia, more longitudinal data and evidence-based research is required. Until recently, there has been a dearth of research regarding the actual practices, processes and evidence-based models that facilitate reunification. There also appears to be a distinct absence of qualitative research privileging the voices and experiences of young people, families, and service providers. More specifically, there remains a paucity of research into the processes and practices of reunification in the Australian context. The focus of this paper is a rapid review of research-based literature focusing on reunification/restoration with children, young people, and families, with the objective to answer the following questions: • What are the key components of effective reunification programs? • What do voices from First Nations specific literature say about reunification in First Nations contexts?
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBedford Park, SA
PublisherFlinders University
Number of pages66
ISBN (Print)978-1-925562-56-9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • reunification
  • child protection
  • child welfare


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