Family Reunification


When do families use Reunification Services?

Reunification services are available for families in which there is a breakdown in the relationship between a parent and child(ren) such that a child is refusing or resisting contact with a parent. We use the word ‘reunification’ because it is the word that is used in the literature to represent the restoration of a relationship and some type of communication between parent and child. Breaks in parent-child contact occur within complex family systems, so it is rarely the case that one parent can solve this situation single-handedly. Therefore, all family members are asked to be active participants in the reunification process.

Description of services:

Reunification services blend the skills and methods from several different fields—psychotherapy, coaching, and dispute resolution. This is not a therapy service and is not covered by health insurance, because there is no presumption of an “illness” that is being treated.

Our model of Reunification Services utilizes two providers. One will work with the parents and one with the children. When parents and children are together in a session, both providers will be there. Having a provider designated to work with the children allows the children to have a space of their own in this process, and a provider who hears and understands their perspective on the family’s struggles. That provider continues to represent the children in family sessions that include parents, as they do not need to become neutral facilitators of the sessions.

Evaluation phase:

  1. Each parent meets with both providers, typically together, for 2 hours at the outset of the process. This allows each parent to meet the provider who will be working with the children, and to provide their perspective on the background of the struggles occurring in their family to both providers at the same time.
  2. Once both parents have completed this meeting, the children meet with their provider for several sessions (up to 3) to get to know one another, and to consider the children’s perspective on the family struggles and how they might benefit from addressing these with their parents.
  3. Parents continue to meet with the parent provider for the same number of sessions as the parent meetings and growth are a cornerstone for the stability of reunification.
  4. The children’s sessions are followed by a meeting between the children and the parent they are “reunifying” with, which includes both providers.

Review and Recommendations:

Once the evaluation phase is complete, the providers discuss options for how the family might best address their difficulties. The providers will make a recommendation about which path of services the family may most productively and effectively follow.