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Multicenter Study
. 2018 Dec;86:67-78.
doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.09.012. Epub 2018 Sep 28.

Reunification in Foster Care: Influences on Decision-Making

Multicenter Study

Reunification in Foster Care: Influences on Decision-Making

João M S Carvalho et al. Child Abuse Negl. .


An important goal of out of home care is to prepare the family and child for reunification. Practitioners are often required to make the decision whether to reunify a foster child with their biological family. This study examines this complex reunification decision in Portugal. Using the Judgments and Decisions Processes in Context model, the authors presented to Portuguese child protection workers and higher education students (n = 400) a case vignette of a child in foster care in which reunification is considered. The vignette consider two scenarios related to the child's wish to go back or not to her biological family, each one presented to half of both samples. The study examined judgments regarding physical and emotional risk and the decision on whether to reunify the child with their biological family, and analyzed the associations of case characteristics, the decision-making context, and the child's wishes regarding reunification with the participants' judgments and decisions. We have used a randomized factorial survey within a quantitative approach and we have performed descriptive, inferential and content analysis of data. The findings indicate that a large majority of professionals and students recommended that the child remain with their foster family, though both groups recommended reunification more frequently when the child wished to return to their biological family. A comparison with findings from other countries suggests that country context can be an important factor that leads to different outcomes. Implications for both practice and research are presented.

Keywords: Child abuse; Child protection policy and practice; Decision making; Foster care; Reunification; Risk assessment.

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