Monthly Archives: July 2013

We’re Four Months Old!

The IFPS Coast to Coast Blog is almost four months old which seems like a good time to review our past, present, and future.

Let’s begin with our name: The IFPS Coast to Coast Blog wants to reach everyone interested in IFPS on the coasts and in between! We have an east coast coordinator, Moneefah Jackson, and a west coast coordinator, Peg Marckworth (me). We’re passionate about this model and curious about what people are doing and what important things are happening in the field.

Top Topics

During the past months, we’ve shared information and resources on many topics relevant to IFPS. You may have noticed that we often present topics as a series of two-three posts. This allows us to share more information and gives you more opportunity to comment.

Our most popular posts so far:

For a complete list of all topics, see Categories and Archives in the sidebar.

Tell Us What You Think

We love your comments. One of the main purposes of this blog is to create conversations about each topic. This feedback provides additional information for readers and also inspires new topics! If you’re not sure how to comment, see How to Leave a Comment.

Spread The Word

We’re now extending our reach by linking the blog to other social media. You can follow us via e-mail (see “Follow This Blog” in the sidebar), Facebook, and Twitter. To learn how easy it is to share information from the blog with your colleagues, see How to Share a Post.

Share Your Wisdom

If you’d like to suggest a topic for a series, let us know!

Or, if you have a topic you’d like to write about, let’s talk about you being a guest blogger. We’d love to hear what’s happening in your program or state. And frankly, we do go on vacation, get preoccupied with other work responsibilities, and have writer’s blah!


Writing a weekly blog is challenging but we try to remember what Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, said: “Writing well is desperately difficult, and it never gets easier. Sometimes after toiling in a quagmire for dozens (or hundreds) of hours I throw the whole effort into the wastebasket and start with a blank page. When I sheepishly shared this wastebasket strategy with the great management writer Peter Drucker, he made me feel much better when he exclaimed, ‘Ah, that is immense progress!’ ”

What Makes It Worthwhile

Here’s one example: a colleague shared with us that he hates blogs but took the time to read ours. He liked what he saw and thought there were a lot of interesting topics. So he sent an e-mail inviting others to check out the IFPS Coast to Coast Blog. We couldn’t be more thrilled!

We look forward to continuing to share knowledge and expertise about IFPS and hearing what you think. Thank you for joining us, supporting us, and for all of your work on behalf of families.

Posted by Peg Marckworth


What’s Up with Evidence-Based Father Involvement?

In 2002, the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) embarked on a voyage in uncharted waters to a research demonstration project on father involvement. The project was funded with a $450,000 grant from the Stuart Foundation and was unique in that:

  • It was the first known research study to determine not only how child welfare social workers viewed fathers but how to motivate these workers to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.
  • The study included the first-of-its-kind fatherhood training manual with onsite training provided to the social workers.
  • Following training and other motivational assistance, the social workers demonstrated increases in measures of identifying, locating, contacting, and involving fathers in case planning and placement of children.
  • A research paper of the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • As an outgrowth of the study, NFPN produced basic and advanced curricula for training front-line practitioners who work with fathers.
  • There is no known replica of this demonstration project.

While programs for practitioners have been relatively scarce, hundreds of programs have been developed for fathers. These programs are varied and may include marriage and relationship strengthening as well as employment, child support, parenting, financial, and other types of assistance. Although tremendous gains have been made in the number and type of programs for fathers, these programs share a weakness with programs for practitioners: little evaluation or development of evidence-based practice.

A study conducted by the Center for Research on Fathers, Children and Family Well-Being, found that only 15% of federal grantees in the most recent fatherhood grant cycle were selected for participation in evaluation. The Center goes on to say, “The fatherhood field passionately believes that . . . serving fathers ultimately improves child well-being. The field therefore has a responsibility to back up those beliefs by investing in researcher-practitioner collaborations to go through all of the stages involved in developing evidence-based practice.”

How can we build evidence-based father involvement programs?

To the greatest extent possible, all of us who are passionate about helping fathers need to use evidence-based curricula and programs. And we need to insist that all programs include a meaningful evaluation that goes well beyond counting numbers and conducting pre/post satisfaction and knowledge surveys. The target to aim for in evaluation is measuring the well-being of children.

Here are some resources that could move the field closer to the target:

  • The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is soliciting applications for the establishment of a Responsible Fatherhood Research Network:
  • The Clearinghouse has released The Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field that provides assistance with launching and sustaining successful fatherhood programs: (PDF download)
  • Read the full report on the current status of father involvement and evidence-based practice: (PDF download)
  • Supporting Father Involvement offers evidence-based curricula for fatherhood programs:

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Engaging Fathers

It seems that when working with families, especially with those who are not in contact with the fathers of their children, counselors tend to be quiet about bringing up the idea of father involvement. No one really knows the reason why this happens; but one can assume that fathers are not often thought about because they may not be playing a role in the lives of their children. Most of the time the men are either working or are not around. Sometimes they are living apart from the children because of past conflict with the mother. Mothers seem to be more of the caretaker who provides for the ongoing basic needs of their children, no matter what.

A recent survey of the extent to which IFPS providers involve fathers revealed the following:

Chart: How do IFPS workers engage fathers?

If fathers are given the opportunity and are encouraged to be part of the intervention, the children’s behavior may improve and they would experience a positive change in their family dynamics. If fathers were to be interviewed, many of them would probably say that they want to play an active role in the lives of their children. With fathers involved, a stronger parental bond can be established between the parents and with the children, which can help to influence positive changes within the family.

According to the Fatherhood Institute website dated December 15, 2010, “children of involved fathers are more likely to live in cognitively stimulating homes (Williams & Sternberg, 2002) and fathers’ commitment to the education process also matters.” If a teenager is having issues with being destructive at home, would it not be a good idea to include every member of the family, since the problem not only affects one person, but everyone within the family?  This would give the families the opportunity to work together and build on change. So the question is asked again, why not include fathers in the intervention process?

According to the Social Work Dictionary (5th Edition), family therapy “focuses on the whole system of individuals and interpersonal and communication patterns. It seeks to clarify roles and reciprocal obligations and to encourage more adaptable behaviors among the family members.” If we believe in the family system, why is it that fathers are not included in the intervention process? After all, is it not our goal as counselors to have the family work together in order to decrease the extremity of unhealthy behaviors? Fathers can become a supportive beam to the structure of the household that will help to stabilize the foundation of the family. When the entire family is part of the intervention, we see greater progress and stability within the family.

To engage fathers, perhaps we can consider the following questions when interviewing the mothers:

  • Do you have any safety concerns that keep you from wanting your children to have more contact with their father?
  • How can you reach out to the child(ren)’s father?
  • What relationship does the child(ren) have with their father?
  • How often does the child(ren) see their father?
  • What type of influences might the father have on the children?
  • It seems that if we involve the father in the intervention, the child may begin to work on some positive changes. What do you think?

Of course one is aware that not every child may have the opportunity to have a father around due to possible safety issues or the nature of different circumstances. Nevertheless, we can begin to empower those fathers who are around and want to take an active role in their children’s lives.

As professionals, it is important that we work closely together to come up with different strategies on how to engage fathers and help them to be part of their children’s lives. If this happens, we will begin to see positive results.

For more information on IFPS and father involvement, see the IFPS Guide to Father Involvement.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Posted by Moneefah D. Jackson

IFPS Program Evaluation

Last week we focused on the evaluation of the IFPS therapist. This week it’s time to evaluate the IFPS program.

From the beginning, the chief outcome measure to determine effectiveness of IFPS programs has been prevention of placement. In the 2011 nationwide survey of IFPS programs, an average of 91% of families remained intact at case closure. For those IFPS programs that tracked placement prevention at 6 and 12 months, the average was the same for both time intervals: 86% of families were still together.

The state of Missouri tracks families for four years from date of the IFPS intervention. Here is a summary of the most recent four-year time period:


The state of New Jersey tracks placement prevention one year from completion of the IFPS intervention. Here are the results from 2011:


Some other measures in the Missouri and New Jersey reports include:

  • Reason for referral to the IFPS program
  • Ages of children
  • Duration of services
  • List of services provided to families

Program evaluation reports are a valuable source of information, not only to the agency providing the service but to the referring agency, other community services providers, policy makers, legislators, advocates of IFPS, and IFPS agencies nationwide. Evaluations of IFPS contribute to the field of knowledge about IFPS, show areas needing improvement, and provide a strong basis of support for establishing and expanding IFPS programs.

You can view the full reports below:

Missouri 2012 Report (PDF, 1.1 Mb)

New Jersey 2012 Report (PDF, 90 Kb)

Please contribute to the knowledge base by sharing a link to your agency’s most recent IFPS evaluation in the comments below or e-mail them to Priscilla Martens at

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Therapist Evaluation

A previous post focused on the qualifications of an IFPS therapist. Now it’s time for the annual evaluation of the therapist!

What is a fair and accurate measure of a therapist’s performance? If the IFPS agency has clear program standards and performance measures, then the therapist’s evaluation flows naturally from that.

Let’s look at an example of how standards produce performance measures that, in turn, produce an evaluation measure of a therapist. The Homebuilders® model of IFPS has the following standards and performance measures for therapist availability:

Standard Performance Measure
Immediate Availability: Therapists meet with families within 24 hours of referral. • 75% of families receive their first face-to-face visit within 24 hours of referral from DCFS; 85% of families receive their first face-to-face visit no later than the end of the day after the referral.
Twenty-Four Hour Availability: Therapists, supervisors and other team members are available and accessible to families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. • Provider agency policies specifically allow a flexible work schedule, with work hours varying from week to week based on the needs of families.• 100% of clients have information about 24-hour availability and how to access therapist.• On the Homebuilders Client Feedback Survey, 95% of family members answer “Yes” to the question: “Was your therapist available and responsive to you?”

Now see how the therapist evaluation form addresses the availability standard and performance measure:

ifd_performance_measuresNotice that both the therapist and supervisor rate each measure. That allows the therapist to have input in the evaluation, compare the self-assessment with the supervisors’ assessment, and set goals for improving performance.

There are 15 performance measures in the Homebuilders evaluation form for therapists. You can view the complete form below, courtesy of the Institute for Family Development.

Homebuilders® Therapist Evaluation Form (PDF, 168 Kb)


Do you have a form for evaluation of the IFPS therapist? Please share a link to it in the comments below or e-mail it to Priscilla Martens at


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director