The Effects of Different Approaches to Service Delivery On Reunification and Re-Entry: An Exploratory Study
Methods: A longitudinal research design using a fixed effects regression modeling approach was used to examine the relationship between reunification approaches and outcomes. To identify reunification approaches, various reunification service delivery strategies identified by a statewide survey (85% response rate) were categorized under four different typologies (Supportive, Assessing, Burden-Easing, and Linking). Reunification “approaches” were measured with a time-varying dichotomous variable indicating high use of interventions in the typology [use in the top 30% of all county-periods]. Data on dependent variables (reunification rate within 18 months of foster care entry; re-entry rate within 12 months of reunification) came from the Performance Indicator Project website housed at U.C. Berkeley (Needell et al., 2012). Observations consisted of bi-annual time periods, for each county over a ten and a half year period from the first half of 2001 through the first half of 2010. Dummy variables for county controlled for static, unique county characteristics; dummy variables for bi-annual time period controlled for time trends.
Results: None of the approaches were found to be associated with reunification rates. Two approaches were found to be associated with reduced re-entry rates: the Burden-easing approach was associated with an decline in the re-entry rate of approximately 4%, while the Supportive approach was found to be associated with decline in the re-entry rate of approximately 2%.
Conclusions and Implications: The association of the burden-easing approach with decreased re-entry rates may suggest that when parents’ energies are less burdened with the logistical challenge of accessing multiple services, they are more able to absorb information from services they do access; thus, when they reunify, those placements are less likely to result in re-entry. Similarly, supportive interventions may have been particularly helpful to families who accessed them, such that reunifications of those parents with their children were stronger and less likely to disrupt. While these findings are exploratory, they suggest that reunification service delivery models focused on strong supports for reunifying families or on easing the burden of accessing services may enable parents to better absorb and apply information learned in services.