When children must be removed from their family for their protection, the initial and preferred permanency option is to achieve reunification with their family as quickly and as safely as possible. Reunification is the most common initial permanency goal for children in foster care.

The physical return of the child or youth to parents or caretakers may occur before the return of legal custody. In these circumstances, often referred to as trial home visits, the child protective services (CPS) agency retains custody of the child while the child lives with his or her parent, and continues to supervise the family for some period of time. Reunification is considered achieved when both care and custody are returned to parents or guardians, and the child is discharged from foster care. CPS agencies work to achieve reunifications that are timely but do not result in the child re-entering the foster care system at a later date.