What is a Reunification Plan? Information You Need to Know in Juvenile Dependency Cases
What is a reunification plan? This is a question that many parents have when their children are removed from the home during a juvenile dependency case. In this blog post, we will discuss what goes into a reunification plan and what services are available to help families achieve reunification.
Under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 361.5(a), a reunification plan is “a written document that sets forth the steps to be taken by the social worker and the parents or guardians to achieve reunification of the child with his or her parents or guardians.”
The reunification plan will be individualized for each family, but some common elements are typically included.
The first element is a visitation schedule. The court must order visitation with the parent as part of the reunification plan so long as visitations would not jeopardize the child’s well-being.
The second element of a reunification plan is a timeline for completing the tasks. This timeline is typically set by the court and may be different for each family depending on the specific circumstances of their case.
The third element of a reunification plan is a list of reunification services that will be provided to the family. These services may include things like counseling, drug treatment, parenting classes, finding stable housing, or in-home support services.
When are Reunification Services Required?
Reunification services may be offered to families whose children have been removed from the home due to abuse or neglect if reunification services benefit the child.
Section (i) states that when the court determines whether reunification services will benefit the child, the court shall consider any information it deems relevant, including the following factors:
The likelihood that the child may be safely returned to the care of the offending parent or guardian within 12 months with no continuing supervision.
Whether or not the child desires to be reunified with the offending parent or guardian.
Any history of abuse of other children by the offending parent or guardian.
The specific act or omission surrounding the severe sexual abuse or the severe physical harm inflicted on the child, sibling, or half-sibling.
The circumstances under which the abuse or harm was inflicted on the child, the child’s sibling, or half-sibling.
The severity of the emotional trauma suffered by the child or the child’s sibling or half-sibling.
An experienced juvenile dependency attorney will be able to make the appropriate arguments to the court in favor of reunification services.
Are There Times When Reunification is Not Required?
There are some circumstances in which reunification services may not be required.
If the child was removed from the home due to serious physical harm or sexual abuse, the parent might be ineligible for reunification services. Additionally, if the parent has a history of severe abuse or neglect, they may also be ineligible for reunification services.
Section (b) states that reunification services do not have to be provided to a parent or guardian when the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, any of the following:
The whereabouts of the parent or guardian are unknown.
The parent or guardian is suffering from a mental disability.
That the child or a sibling of the child has been previously adjudicated a dependent as a result of physical or sexual abuse.
The parent or guardian of the child has caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect.
The child was brought within the jurisdiction of the court under subdivision (e) of Section 300 because of the conduct of that parent or guardian.
The child has been adjudicated a dependent as a result of severe sexual abuse or the infliction of severe physical harm to the child, a sibling, or a half-sibling by a parent or guardian.
What Happens When Reunification Services Are Not Required?
If reunification services are not required, the child may be placed in long-term foster care or adopted.
Can a Reunification Plan Be Terminated Early?
The court may terminate a reunification plan early if the parent or guardian does not comply with the tasks outlined in the plan. In addition, if a parent or guardian does not comply with the reunification plan, they may be ineligible for reunification services.
Additionally, if a parent or guardian has not made progress towards reuniting with the child, the court may find that reunification services are not required.
The court will also terminate reunification services if the parent has been convicted of a felony indicating parental unfitness.
An experienced juvenile dependency attorney will be able to make the appropriate arguments to the court in favor of terminating a reunification plan early.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE AN OPEN JUVENILE DEPENDENCY CASE?
If you have been accused of abuse or neglect, it is crucial to get an attorney as soon as possible.
If you are are facing allegations of abuse or neglect, or have an open dependency case, it is crucial to understand your rights in juvenile dependency cases.
You deserve to have a lawyer who will help you fight to get your children back. If you are dealing with a juvenile dependency case, DCFS case, or CPS case in Orange County, California, or Southern California, you need the juvenile dependency attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side.