Monthly Archives: March 2014

Family Preservation Journal

Family Preservation Journal Cover

Image used by permission

This is the first of two posts on the role of academia over the 40 years that IFPS has been in existence. From the beginning, IFPS has been one of the most researched and written about models of human services. Frequently this work was undertaken by faculty at colleges and universities across the nation.

In 1995 the Family Preservation Institute within the Department of Social Work, New Mexico State University, released the first issue of the Family Preservation Journal. Printing costs were covered by subscriptions. Professors John Ronnau and Alvin Sallee stated the purpose of the Journal: “to provide a forum in which practitioners, administrators, researchers, and educators in family preservation may present and critically review their findings, issues, and concerns. In the process, the family preservation culture and approach will be refined and invigorated.” Over twenty additional college and university professors served on the Editorial Board.

Articles in the first issue included:

  • A proposal that universities adopt a family preservation and support agenda as one of their missions in surrounding communities and regions.
  • A conceptual framework for reunification. A case example was analyzed using a conceptual framework that included social learning theory, client-centered approach, and ecological systems theory.
  • In a research study article, four assessment scales were used to determine change in family functioning based on the IFPS intervention. The results indicated that IFPS had a positive effect on family functioning.
  • The Journal also included a review of books and training materials. A professor commented on a 43-minute video of HOMEBUILDERS® IFPS training in which eight vignettes were presented to demonstrate behavioral-cognitive skills.

The following is an excerpt from the findings that reflected changes in parenting for families receiving IFPS:

Table 4
Child Well-Being Scales

Child Well-Being Scale

Pretest Mean

Posttest Mean


Child well-being scale (44 items)




Parental disposition (14 items)




Children’s adequacy of mental health care




Parental capacity of child care




Parental recognition of problems in the family




Parental motivation to solve problems




Parental cooperation with case planning




Parental acceptance of children




Parental approval of children




Parental expectations of children




Parental consistency of discipline




Teaching/stimulating children




Protection from abuse




Abusive physical discipline




Threat of abuse




* = <.05
** = <.01
*** = <.00

This brief overview of the first issue of the Family Preservation Journal indicates the role of the Journal in aiding to establish the foundation, theory, research, best practice, tools, and resources that would undergird the development and expansion of IFPS. A publication founded and supported by academia and devoted solely to family preservation lent legitimacy and credibility to the movement.

The publication’s name was later changed to the Journal of Family Strengths. Issues of the Family Preservation Journal are now available free online. Here is the link to the first issue: (PDF, 10.6 MB)

Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director, National Family Preservation Network


Listening and Changing

webcast_thumbnailHow well do you listen?
How much do you know about what makes people want to change?

For anyone who needs to engage client families, these are two critical questions.

Most of us think we are good listeners. Here’s a simple test: how frequently in your communication with client families do you…

  • direct?
  • give advice?
  • persuade?
  • disagree?
  • interpret?
  • analyze?
  • question?
  • probe?
  • reassure?
  • sympathize?

You may be surprised to discover that none of these responses define listening!

How about promoting willingness to change?

How frequently do you begin to develop a case plan for families during your first meeting with them? And then discover that family members have taken none of the steps when you next visit them! Perhaps that is because there are three steps that need to be taken before family members are willing to make changes.

In 2012 the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN), in cooperation with the Institute for Family Development (IFD), developed a webcast training on Active Listening and the Six Stages of Change.

The half-hour webcast includes:

  • How to obtain information from families without interrogating them
  • How families make decisions to change and why rushing them is counter-productive
  • How listening to a family is key to helping them

The IFD Trainer, Suzanna McCarthy, provides a wealth of information, examples, and methods of really listening to families and helping them achieve their goals.

We’re making this webcast (a recording of the livestream video) available to you at no cost. You’ll want to view it more than once and you’ll learn something new every time! A handout to aid you in following along with the recording is also provided.

To access the webcast recording and handout, visit:

Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director, National Family Preservation Network
and Charlotte Booth, Executive Director, Institute for Family Development

An Australian’s View of IFPS

Koala by marragem

Photo by marragem. Used under the Creative Commons license.

In 2012, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust provided me with the most adventurous, challenging, and rewarding experience of my life when approving my project into studying the effective use of intensive family support services to address child and abuse and neglect.

During my 10 weeks of travel across the United Kingdom, Denmark, the United States of America, and Canada, I heard from some of the world’s foremost experts on child protection who have shared their valuable time, experiences, and knowledge with me.

Some Lessons I Learned About Intensive Family Preservation Services

  • A family preservation philosophy is essential to achieve positive transformational change.
  • Research-based, effective family preservation services must be established in an intensive targeted system.
  • Child protection must be conceptualized as a system that protects children, supports families, and strengthens communities, with the sharing, not shifting, of responsibilities.
  • A political and public will must be established in order to challenge the hearts and minds of the community to assert that our most vulnerable children and families are worthy of respect, care, and support—whatever it takes.

Child abuse and neglect does not occur in isolation, rather in contexts. It cannot be easily disentangled from individual, family, and community issues, such as, poverty, mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, domestic violence, homelessness, and social isolation. Governments across the world are actively seeking options to support families so that more children and young people could remain safely at home. Just as there is not “one type” of family, nor is there a “one type of service” that can address all of the families’ needs. Family preservation services have a significant role to fulfill in a system designed to protect children and support families. Throughout my travels, I have developed an understanding that family preservation is also a philosophy, with potential to provide community-based interventions for families with a much broader range of issues and problems.

The following is what I learned from one program I visited in the United States.

Institute for Family Development—Developers of the HOMEBUILDERS® Program

Homebuilders® is an intensive in-home family treatment program designed to keep children and families safe and prevent unnecessary out of home placement of children, and to safely reunite children and families. The team (I met with Charlotte Booth, Christi Lyson, and John Hutchens) spoke of how the Homebuilders® program has evolved over time but the emphasis of the intervention has always been on the safety of the child.

In order to achieve that the program has a clearly articulated set of values and beliefs, which guides program design and staff behaviour. Along with the provision of concrete supports, clinicians utilize a range of cognitive and behavioural therapy interventions, such as motivational enhancements therapy.

The promotion of Homebuilders® to the child protection sector as an effective intervention program has not come without its challenges. The implementation of the model takes time and resources and the support of the government and non-government sectors is crucial.

A meta-analysis of research conducted by the Washington State Institute For Public Policy into Intensive Family Preservation Programs: Program Fidelity Influences Effectiveness (February, 2006) concluded that:

Intensive Family Preservation Services that are implemented with fidelity to the Homebuilders® model significantly reduce out-of-home placements and subsequent abuse and neglect. We estimate that such programs produce $2.54 of benefits for each dollar of cost. However non- Homebuilders® programs (even those claiming to be based on the Homebuilders®) produce no significant effect on either outcome.

These results support the view that fidelity to program design can determine whether or not an individual program is effective in achieving its goals.

Grounded in comprehensive research, the Homebuilders® model is an effective family preservation model that would greatly benefit Queensland’s (Australia) child protection system.

The transportation of effective and sustainable alternative strategies as seen throughout the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom can benefit Australia through redirecting future funding, policy, and programs areas that better target services to vulnerable children and families.

Resources must be shifted to fund research-based, effective family preservation services to address child maltreatment.

The full report can be accessed at:

Posted by Chris Boyle, 2012 Churchill Fellow, Queensland, AUSTRALIA

IFPS and Step-down Services

From its inception, IFPS has been an all-inclusive service that is completed within four to six weeks. Early IFPS programs had no provision for step-down services.  This does not mean that families received no additional services.  IFPS therapists frequently refer families to other services prior to the close of the IFPS intervention.  But the question remains:  are IFPS step-down services ever justified?  If so, when is the optimal time to offer them?

I undertook a study of this issue in 2000 in the state of North Carolina.  What I discovered was a “window of vulnerability” that is depicted in the following chart by means of placement rates following the IFPS intervention:

Chart - Proportion Placed Out of Home

Note “window of vulnerability” from 120 days to 270 days post service.

The placement dynamics evident suggested that secondary interventions or additional services should be offered to families in the first 6 months following termination of the IFPS intervention.

Beginning in 2004, IFPS programs in North Carolina were required to track families for 6 months after receiving IFPS services:

  • Contact families monthly, inquire about functioning & needs.
  • Conduct a more comprehensive assessment of families during the contacts at 3 months and 6 months.
  • Verify that families were receiving the services that they were supposed to receive after IFPS and see if additional in-home services are needed.

IFPS workers were authorized to re-open services to the family for a maximum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 2 times during the 6 month follow-up period.

  • Between 2004 and 2008, 999 families received follow-up contacts
  • 593 received 3-month comprehensive assessment
  • 381 received 6-month assessment
  • Families had option to decline being contacted in the future; some families could not be located

 Family contacts during 6 months following case closure













Number of Families Contacted







Average Hours of Phone Contacts







Average Hours of In-Person Contacts







Average # Worker Initiated Contacts







Average # Family Initiated Contacts







Number of Case Re-Openings







During the period 2000–2004, prior to implementation of follow-up contacts and possible additional services, the post service placement rate (attrition rate) during the first 6 months was approximately 7%, based on AFCARS data.

Among families receiving follow-up services between 2004 and 2008, post-IFPS service placement rate was:

  • 3.0% during first 3 months,
  • 1.5% during months 4–6.


Follow-up services during first 6 months post-IFPS services appear to reduce the placement (attrition) rate by about one-third.

Posted by Ray Kirk, Researcher
Dr. Kirk’s research on the child welfare system includes assessment tools, IFPS, reunification, and prevention.