Monthly Archives: May 2014

Assessment and Exit Instrument Tools for IFPS

The National Family Preservation Network recently released a research study that included findings from assessment tools and exit instruments.

The North Carolina Family Assessment Scale (NCFAS) was originally designed for use with a statewide IFPS program in North Carolina. It includes 5 domains that measure family functioning: Environment, Parental Capabilities, Family Interaction, Safety, and Child Well-Being.

The tool has been proven reliable and valid with dozens of IFPS programs. A later version of this tool, the NCFAS-G, includes the original 5 domains plus 3 additional domains of Social/Community Life, Self-Sufficiency, and Health. Initial reliability and validity for the NCFAS-G was established with a differential response program.

Some IFPS agencies have been reluctant to use the NCFAS-G because it had not been tested with an IFPS program. The research study included use of the NCFAS-G with 2 IFPS programs and 1 differential response program. The following is a chart showing the reliability of the NCFAS-G as used with these programs:

Reliability of NCFAS-G using Chronbach’s Alpha as the Reliability Statistic:

NCFAS-G Domains Intake Closure
Environment .913 .922
Parental Capabilities .838 .869
Family Interaction .881 .903
Family Safety .862 .919
Child Well-Being .894 .869
Social / Community Life .833 .822
Self-Sufficiency .920 .887
Family Health .800 .813
N 181 166

By convention and agreement among psychometric researchers and scale developers, Chronbach’s alphas above 0.8 are considered to be strong, and alphas above 0.9 are considered to be very strong.

The NCFAS tools are designed to assist workers with assessing the family’s needs, prioritizing goals and services, developing a case plan, and measuring the family’s progress following delivery of services. The NCFAS tools are also used in evaluation and research. In the recent research study, the following chart shows the percentage of families functioning below baseline (adequate) at intake and at case closure:

NCFAS-G Domains Intake Closure
Environment 16% 6%
Parental Capabilities 30% 8%
Family Interactions 22% 8%
Family Safety 19% 6%
Child Well-Being 35% 12%
Social / Community Life 11% 4%
Self-Sufficiency 25% 13%
Family Health 28% 8%
N 184 172

The research study also included testing of exit instruments designed by NFPN to align questions for the worker and parent(s) which correspond in general with the NCFAS assessment tools. You will note from the examples in the following chart that when families completed services, caregiver responses at termination almost mirrored the responses of the worker whereas there was more disparity between caregiver and worker when the family did not complete services:

Proportion of Responses About “Neutral” and At or Below “Neutral”

 Proportion of Responses Above , At, or Below Neutral

To read the full research study, visit:

For more information on the assessment tools, visit:

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

IFPS Nationwide Survey

1992_2014_ifps_reportsThe National Family Preservation (NFPN) has conducted nationwide surveys of Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) in 1994, 2007, 2011, and now 2014. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of IFPS (Homebuilders® model) so NFPN is publishing a special survey edition. Here are the highlights:

In the first nationwide survey of IFPS in 1994 a half-dozen states reported they had implemented the Homebuilders® model of IFPS on a statewide basis (75% or more of counties). Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, and Michigan have continuously provided IFPS while Tennessee and Louisiana discontinued IFPS for a period of time. Twenty years later 12 states responding to the survey have a statewide model of IFPS based on the Homebuilders® model.

  • The 12 exemplary states report that they serve 11,364 families annually.
  • Seven of the 12 exemplary states require 30 or more hours of initial training on IFPS while eight states require ongoing training.

What others have said about the Homebuilders® model of IFPS:

“Many people who argue for the removal of children see the damage which has been done by abusive or neglectful parents. I can understand that. However, they are not around to see the long-term damage to children that can result from acting hastily or unnecessarily to remove them from their families. They also do not see the enormous successes that have resulted from our family preservation efforts, even sometimes with families once thought to be beyond hope. We hear from many families (96 percent in the latest study) that family preservation is exactly what they needed to help them deal with their problems-and they would recommend it for other families.”

— Gerald Miller, Director, Michigan Department of Social Services, Detroit News, August 27, 1993.


“It is a timeless model that encourages and supports the fundamental belief that all children need and deserve a family.”

— Douglas Nelson, Retired President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation).


“Family preservation services appeal to our better side. With their constant commitment to the strengths, not weaknesses, of families in trouble, they are proving that most families can learn to stay together, that people can change.”

— Bill Moyers, Families First, PBS documentary

Here’s a glimpse at the future of IFPS:

NFPN and the Institute for Family Development (IFD) are jointly developing an IFPS Repository. The website will serve as the electronic library for irreplaceable memorabilia and documents from the past, current documents that are critical to retaining and expanding the knowledge base of IFPS, and room for growth to add more documents in the future.

And, here’s the last word in honor of the 40th anniversary of IFPS:

The Homebuilders® model of IFPS services is the most important development in the history of services to families.

Demonstrating that the most challenging families can safely remain together, offering these families unlimited access to intensive services, treating them as partners, and anticipating that they can and will change in a brief period of time is an audacious undertaking.

And one that has withstood the test of time.

To view the complete IFPS Survey Report, visit:


Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director
National Family Preservation Network

What a Field Placement in IFPS Offers Students

A field placement with an Intensive Family Preservation Services agency gives students a unique experience in child welfare. The structure of IFPS interventions, including their intensity, can broaden, accelerate and integrate the student’s classroom learning.

The primary goal of an IFPS field placement is to learn how to provide short-term, intensive, home-based interventions with children and families. A major focus is learning and practicing interventions skills designed to help families resolve problems that put them at risk of disruption through placement of a child.

The field placement offers an opportunity for students to integrate their classroom learning. Theory, policy, and practice come together under the guidance of skilled IFPS agency staff. Students learn a variety of intervention skills that benefit their capabilities as clinicians whether in family preservation or other practice areas.

Skills learned in an IFPS field placement include:

  • Engaging clients quickly
  • Motivating clients to participate in counseling
  • Assessing and utilizing client strengths
  • Assessing family/individual functioning levels and problem areas
  • Assessing the risk of child abuse, neglect, family violence and self-harm
  • Structuring the family situation to prevent violence
  • Defusing potentially violent situations
  • Providing support through active listening, affirmations, availability and resource mobilization
  • Teaching skills using cognitive behavioral techniques including: communication, parenting, mood management, behavioral management, problem solving, decision making, negotiation, and assertiveness
  • Developing therapist self-care strategies and skills

Not all students will find a field placement in IFPS a good fit for them. Students benefit from a complete understanding of the benefits and demands of a field placement in IFPS before selecting the placement. Some characteristics are associated with greater student success and satisfaction in an IFPS field placement:

  • Commitment to the goals, values and strategies of family preservation services.
  • A belief that, in most cases, the best place for children is with their natural families and that IFPS can help achieve that goal while keeping children and other family members safe.
  • Seeing the value of working with clients as colleagues and believing that people are capable of making significant changes in their behavior.
  • Openness to diversity.
  • Flexibility and availability to see families outside normal field placement days, including evenings and weekends.
  • An understanding of the need to be available to clients in crisis situations, either in person or by phone.


Posted by Peg Marckworth

Federal Family Preservation Legislation

Family Preservation Guide CoverAs part of the 40th anniversary celebration of IFPS, we are looking at federal involvement in family preservation. Advocates of IFPS were instrumental in helping to pass the first federal law on this issue, the Family Preservation and Support Services Program, enacted in 1993.

Information for this post is taken from the publication Making Strategic Use of the Family Preservation and Support Services Program: A Guide for Planning. The Guide, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Children’s Defense Fund, was published in 1994 with readers encouraged to reproduce and disseminate it. The following are some of the highlights from the Guide:

The goals of the Family Preservation and Support Services Program are to:

  • Protect children’s safety.
  • Strengthen families’ ability to promote their children’s healthy
  • Contribute to the development of a more responsive, collaborative, family-centered child and family service system.

The program authorizes resources for states to meet these goals
through broad-based and extended planning and through the strategic expansion of family preservation and family support services. Approximately $900 million will be distributed to states over the course of five years (FY 1994 through FY 1998) for planning and program expansion.

The legislation recognizes that family preservation and family support are not “stand-alone” services; they are part of a larger child and family service system. They stress that planning and implementation should not be limited to expansion of family preservation and family support services, but should seek to apply the principles underlying these services—family-centered, collaborative, and communitybased service delivery—to all child and family services. Family preservation and family support services should be expanded in ways that encourage, facilitate, and leverage improvements in all child-serving systems.

Here’s how the legislation described family preservation services:

  • Often offered to families as an alternative to their children’s placement in out-of-home care.
  • Designed to maintain children safely in their homes and prevent the unnecessary separation of families.
  • Characterized by small caseloads for workers, short duration of services, 24-hour-a-day availability of staff, and the provision of services primarily in the home or in another environment familiar to the family.

The federal government intended that the family preservation and support legislation would serve as a catalyst for improving service delivery. States were required to develop plans with five critical steps:

  1. Determining in detail the needs of children and families as well as state and local capacity to respond to these needs.
  2. Envisioning a more effective service system—one that responds earlier, more comprehensively and with greater flexibility—with the aim of strengthening families and promoting healthy child development.
  3. Developing policy and programmatic strategies that will enable states and communities to build this more effective system.
  4. Identifying all of the resources—federal, state, and local, public and private—available for child and family services.
  5. Determining how best to allocate (or reallocate) those resources so that they support state and local reform agendas.

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