Lutheran Children and Family Service’s (LCFS) Family Reunification program was very successful in their recent annual survey by the Department of Human Services (DHS). They scored a 99 percent in safety standards, and a 95 percent in non-safety standards. These numbers are well above the minimum thresholds of 80 percent for safety, and 70 percent for non-safety.
Family Reunification works with children who are in foster care or a group home, but are able to return to their biological family. The social worker helps the family to prepare a few weeks prior to the child’s return, and stays with the family for about three months after the child returns home. Social workers spend at least five hours a week with each of their cases, and are on call 24/7 in case of emergency.
For the survey, the DHS looks at a sample of clients. In addition, every client fills out a survey that goes to the DHS when the case is concluded.
The safety standards include things such as safe bathing for children, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, proper food and clothing, and for young children, safe cribs, baby gates and outlet covers. The DHS also conducts safety assessments of clients. Before a child can be returned to the home, there must be no safety concerns. After the family is reunified, social workers talk to children alone at least once a month about safety issues.
Non-safety standards refer to the general well-being of the child, and permanency, or the child’s ability to remain in the home after reunification. These include drug or alcohol use by a parent or the child, home assessments including heat, hot water, gas and electric, and family income.
Rasheedah Hutson, a Family Service Supervisor for LCFS, says that communication is key to the Family Reunification team’s success. “They do a really good job. We’re all constantly growing, including myself,” she said. “Everyone on the team has something to bring to the table, and they learn from one another.”
“Part of the reason why the kids are in care is because of safety issues, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they are kept safe.” said Robert Johnson, a Family Reunification Case Manager. “When we create a safe environment and have a successful case, that makes us feel good.”
“I always want to see that the child is safe and that the case is successful,” said Victoria Myers, a Family Reunification social worker.
Robert says that as social workers, they become like extended family members to their clients. “They see that we’re there to help them,” he said. “We provide a service that they need and they really appreciate it in the end.”