Favoring Reunification for Children in Foster Care is a Legal Mandate, Not Bias Against Foster Parents

May 15, 2017

by Jennifer Lawson, Bryn King, Reiko Boyd and Jill Duerr Berrick

Federal and state laws governing child welfare agencies have long required that reasonable efforts be made to prevent the removal of children from their homes, and to reunify children with their families of origin when removal cannot be safely prevented. Beginning with the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, federal policy has mandated that reunification be prioritized as the preferred permanency outcome for children who enter foster care due to abuse or neglect. The recent events surrounding a juvenile dependency court judge in Yolo County, Calif., demonstrate an alarming disregard for these legal requirements as well as a failure to take into account data on reunification. Last month, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to remove local Superior Court Judge Steven Basha from overseeing dependency cases involving children in foster care. According to Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad, who called for the vote, Judge Basha showed “judicial bias” by favoring reunification in dependency cases.