Summary

Once legal custody of a child has been granted to a child welfare agency, efforts to reunify the family hinge on whether parents can overcome the problems that lead to abuse and neglect. Consistent with a legal and policy framework protecting parental rights in the United States, the threshold for separating a child from his or her parents is set high, and family reunification is the preferred permanency goal for most children who come into the child welfare system. Despite this policy preference, reunification rates are lower than desired and even when reunification does happen, some children experience subsequent placements. In this forum, experts discussed findings from a Chapin Hall report in which researchers identified a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system who had extensive childhood trauma experiences and faced multiple challenges or service needs.