A look inside family reunification for children with attachment difficulties: An exploratory study



Lecompte V, Pascuzzo K, Hélie S. (2023). A look inside family reunification for children with attachment difficulties: An exploratory study. Children and Youth Services Review. 154, 107140.


Stability of care among vulnerable children is the primary goal following out-of-home placement. While family reunification is the preferred option for child placement when a return to the home of origin is conceivable, it is not a guarantee of stability and quite often fails. It is known that many children who experience out-of-home placement develop attachment difficulties stemming from the ruptures or instability that they have experienced within their primary attachment relationships. Reunification is therefore a very sensitive period for these children as they are at-risk of experiencing another rupture in attachment bonds in the case of a re-placement. To better understand the reunification process for children identified with attachment difficulties, this exploratory study investigates the association between the history of placement, contacts with the parent prior to reunification, services offered during the reunification process and child and parental functioning issues among children identified with and without attachment difficulties. The sample consists of 146 families who experienced reunification. Results indicated that in comparison with children without attachment difficulties, children identified with attachment difficulties during the reunification process spent more days in out-of-home care, were offered more services and presented greater cumulative difficulties than their counterparts. These results suggest that children with attachment difficulties have a distinct profile and underscore the importance of considering both individual and relational characteristics when supporting these families through the reunification process.