Louisiana is the second in our series of featured IFPS programs. (See more at Mississippi.) Louisiana began offering intensive family preservation services in the 1990s. It was discontinued due to budget restraints and reinstated in 2007.
We asked the provider, Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge, LA, and the Louisiana State Administrator to talk about key elements of their program.
1.How long has your state offered IFPS? Share about the history of IFPS in your state.
IFPS State Administrator: Louisiana DCFS has offered IFPS since 2007. It was available in the mid-90s; however, it became a casualty of significant budget restraints and was discontinued. It was resurrected post-Katrina in 2007, when funds became available, and has maintained funding each year now that we have data to support its success. Also, in March 2013, the Homebuilders® model of intensive family preservation became a Medicaid covered service, thereby opening it up to more families.
IFPS Provider: We started in 1990 with a federal grant. In 1991, we started contracting with the State through OCS, later renamed to DCFS, to provide intensive home-based prevention and reunification services, based on the Homebuilders® model.
2. Why does your state/agency offer IFPS?
IFPS State Administrator:
It’s ultimately about safety! If we can prevent a child from coming into custody and safely maintaining them in their own home (now and in the future without repeat maltreatment), the savings to the state is significant and the “emotional savings” to the child and family are immeasurable.
Removal of a child from the home can be very traumatizing, even if placed in the best of foster homes. By intervening quickly, we can diffuse a crisis situation and teach the family new skills in order to keep the child safe in the home.
The State is also focusing on reducing the number of children in foster care and making sure they have safe and permanent homes. Homebuilders® allows a child to return to their home environment by placing extra supports to smooth the transition, increasing stability in the placement. Referrals to Homebuilders® are also encouraged to stabilize a foster home placement, thereby reducing the number of placement changes and disruptions for the child.
We believe that families are more interested and more capable of change during times of crisis and that families can, with help, learn healthier, more nurturing ways of responding to family members, including their children.
The Homebuilders® model emphasizes community networking, family advocacy and skills building to increase family self-sufficiency and improve family living.
3. What qualities do you want to see in providers of IFPS, both at the agency and at the therapist level?
IFPS State Administrator: The Provider/Therapist would have to have:
a clear understanding of safety,
an ability to teach skills in a motivating and encouraging manner,
apply a collaborative approach with the agency and community providers,
have a belief in families and their ability to make changes,
flexibility to work with all ages and “issues”,
availability (24/7 including evenings and weekends),
appreciation and respect for diversity and
an ability to be engaging with families, seeing them as partners in the process.
All levels of the organization need to be “on board” when it comes to adhering to the Homebuilders® model. From the Therapist to the Program Supervisor and the Program Manager, all need to understand and implement the model with fidelity.
IFPS Provider: The Provider/Therapist is someone:
with good therapeutic skills,
who understands the philosophy that families are best served in their homes where intervention happens in real-life situations,
who is very flexible and available to see clients when it is convenient for them, rather than the therapist,
who is non-judgmental about working with parents who have abused their children,
who is a “people” person.
4. What qualities do you look for in an IFPS therapist?
IFPS State Administrator:
Life changing transformation in behavior, thoughts, and actions from even the most challenging of family circumstances has occurred.
It’s amazing what families can accomplish when they are guided, given the skills and encouragement, and are linked with supports in the community.
The feedback surveys are overwhelmingly positive and “glowing” with praise for the program and thanks for giving them this chance to make improvements.
IFPS Provider: See #3.
5. How do you measure success of IFPS services? How successful are IFPS services in your state?
IFPS State Administrator: Success is measured by:
improved NCFAS ratings,
family satisfaction surveys,
child safety (whether the child comes into care or is reunified—as long as they are not re-victimized),
success at closure (for example, did the family complete the full intervention without dropping out or having a removal), and
avoidance of repeat maltreatment within 6 months of the closure date of IFPS.
Homebuilders® is an integral part of our family services menu and is regarded as highly successful in maintaining families safely.
IFPS Provider: In baby steps often. Indicators we look for:
Parents are receptive to suggestions
Parents put the new skills into practice
Less fear in the children
Parents are not using physical punishment
No additional CPS reports for a period of 6 months to at least a year
6. What advice and resources can you share with other states that want to establish a strong IFPS program?
IFPS State Administrator:
We recommended that states use a research based model, such as Homebuilders®, and provide oversight to ensure it is followed with integrity and fidelity.
Having a State “coordinator” is helpful as this contact person can coordinate trainings for all providers (date, location) as well as conduct Provider meetings to collaborate, problem solve and share successes.
For Louisiana, we have access to the Online Data Management (ODM) system where all Homebuilders® data is stored for our families so we can run current statewide data (from a therapist level to a program level to a statewide level) as well as link that system data with our agency system data to check for repeat maltreatment.
We use the Homebuilders® model and use the assistance and training provided by the Institute for Family Development (IFD).
Coordinate at the state level to evaluate the level of need for this service in your area.
Develop a clear agency financial model for providing this service.
If you have more questions, you can reach me at 225-928-9398.
Contacts: IFPS State Administrator Nell Aucoin DCFS Child Welfare Prevention and Family Services Baton Rouge, LA
IFPS Provider Raylene McKinnon Director of Child and Family Services Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge, LA