Barriers to Successful Reunification of Children With Their Families After Foster Care

Emerging Leader Fellow: Wanja Ogongi, 2009-2010

Wanja Ogongi and Community Legal Services (CLS) sought to address the problem of Philadelphia’s disproportionately high rate of children returning to foster care within 12 months of being reunified with their birth families. About 43% of Philadelphia children and youth re-enter foster care within twelve months after being reunited with their families. This is much higher than the statewide rate of 28.6%. The development and stability of these children is severely impacted by the upheaval, uncertainty and emotional distress of having to return to foster care soon after reuniting with their parents.

Wanja analyzed existing research on reunification and also conduct some original qualitative research with a sample of parents recruited to the project. She identified the problems that families face both before and after reunification that contribute to the re-entry problem. This information was used to inform policy and advocacy work as well as the practices of CLS as an organization. This project allowed CLS the opportunity to identify, study, and propose solutions to the obstacles that stand in the way of successful reunification.