Many of us appear surprised when families involved in the child protective system do not reunify. A parent’s path to reunification seems straightforward. Upon a finding of neglect, the court prescribes a basic regimen, typically consisting of parenting classes, counseling, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation, that a parent must fulfill prior to having the child returned to his/her custody. If a parent successfully completes these seemingly minimal requirements, the law requires reunification unless the return poses a “substantial risk of harm” to the child. With such high stakes involved, a clearly defined path for success, and the prospect of termination of parental rights looming over them, parents have every incentive to complete these requirements quickly and succeed in the overwhelming majority of cases. One would expect parents, fighting zealously for their children, to diligently complete court-mandated requirements and promptly reunify with their children. This is the child protective system we strive to achieve. This goal is embodied in the Michigan Juvenile Code, which states a preference that a child coming within the court’s jurisdiction “receives the care, guidance, and control, preferably in his or her own home.”
Sankaran, Vivek, co-author. "Procedural Injustice: How the Practices and Procedures of the Child Welfare System Disempower Parents and Why It Matters." I. Lander, co-author. Mich. Child Welfare L. J. 11, no. 1 (2007): 11-9.