Monthly Archives: June 2014

Brown Family Case Study

Facts_On_IFPS_CoverThe following case study appeared in the Facts on Intensive Family Preservation Services packet that was written and produced by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in 1994.

The case involves a family in which a child was at risk of psychiatric hospitalization.

The Brown Family
Buffalo, New York

At age 11, Sam Brown burned down his neighbor’s garage and was sent away to a residential youth facility in upstate New York. Two years later he returned home. The adjustment wasn’t easy. Sam was fighting with his two younger brothers constantly and their mother was having a difficult time handling them. Sam’s dad worked at night and was reluctant to discipline the children, fearing he would lose his temper.

With all three boys home from school for summer vacation tensions in the house mounted. One afternoon, while’ playing outside, Sam and his nine-year-old brother, Frank, got into a violent battle. When Sam began choking Frank, a neighbor called the police. Sam, accompanied by his mother, was taken by the police to the psychiatric emergency room of the Erie County Medical Center.

The hospital called in a caseworker from the Home Based Crisis Intervention Program at Buffalo General Hospital, which works with kids from 5 to 18 years old. The program caseworker, trained in psychiatric nursing, drove Sam and his mother, Anne, home and returned the next morning to begin working with the family.

Over a six-week period the caseworker spent almost every other day with the family and was able to closely observe their behavior. His first discovery was that Sam was not always the instigator of the fights with his brothers. Frank, the middle son, often started a brawl and then complained to his mother that Sam was to blame. While Sam was away, Frank had assumed the role of “number one son” and was upset about relinquishing this status to his older brother. The caseworker made Anne aware that Frank was frequently baiting Sam and that she needed to direct her discipline toward all three boys and not just her oldest son.

The caseworker counseled Anne at home and during frequent phone conversations. They worked on building her confidence in her parenting skills and her ability to take charge when a fight broke out between her sons. “Anne had good parenting skills,” the caseworker recalls. “What she needed was a lot of reassurance that she could handle the kids.”

With the help of the caseworker, Anne and her husband, Raymond, devised behavioral charts to identify a few things that they wanted their sons to do, such as going to bed on time and getting along better. Each week, the boys were rewarded with stars and points for what they’d accomplished, or punished with an early bedtime or no TV when they did not follow family rules. Sometimes the caseworker would treat the boys to dinner or a day in the park for doing well. Eventually the worker was able to transfer this responsibility to the parents, especially Raymond, who was encouraged to spend more quality time with his sons.

The caseworker concentrated on helping both parents to build their self-esteem. Anne frequently called about problems at home. “She’d panic if the boys kept fighting or refused to listen to her,” the caseworker said. “I’d give her reassurance that it was O.K. for her to do certain things to discipline the kids, such as separating them from each other until things cooled down.”

Anne had been managing the boys on her own and needed more of her husband’s support, but his own lack of confidence had kept him uninvolved. “Raymond had a negative image of himself I think I was probably one of the first people who really listened to what he had to say. He cared a lot about his family; he just needed to know that he was needed and that he and his wife had to work together.”

The younger boys responded well to the behavioral charts. Sam still had a difficult time controlling his temper and getting along, but he worked hard and showed some improvement. When school reopened, tensions at home eased and several months after counseling ended, the family was still together and doing well. Arrangements were made with other agencies to coordinate additional social services that the family still needed, such as a special education program for Sam, welfare benefits, and supplemental employment assistance.

“When I began this case, I had some doubts as to whether I was going to be successful,” the counselor recalls. “Sam was acting out and fighting a lot. I came close to bringing him back to the hospital a few times. By working with Anne, Raymond, and the boys as a family, we managed to bring everyone together. What became critical to Sam’s progress was giving him the message that he wasn’t going to be sent away again, no matter what he did. He may have tested them by behaving badly; he just wanted to be sure they really wanted him around.”



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


Federal Support for IFPS

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of IFPS includes celebrating several key federal programs that provide support for IFPS.

The first is the Family Preservation and Support Services Program enacted by Congress in 1993. This federal program was later changed to Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF). The PSSF program was most recently reauthorized in 2011 for a period of five years. There are currently four categories of services that can be funded through PSSF:

  • Family preservation services
  • Family support services
  • Time-limited family reunification services
  • Adoption promotion and support services

For FY 2013 the total amount of funding was approximately $310.8 million. States are required to spend 20% for each of the four categories unless they provide a rationale for spending less. Administrative costs cannot exceed 10%. The following chart shows how states planned to allocate expenditures for the most recent fiscal year:

Promoting Safe and Stable Families FY 2013 Planned Expeditures

In addition to the four categories of funding, the PSSF program also provides funding to ensure that children in foster care are visited monthly by their caseworkers, grants to increase the well-being and permanency of children affected by substance abuse, and authorization for up to 10 new child welfare waiver demonstration projects per year (Title IV-E Waivers).

Federal child welfare waivers are important because they allow states more flexible use of federal funds to improve child welfare services. Funds that ordinarily would be used only for children in out-of-home placement can also be used for preventive services.

A Title IV-E Waiver is being used to expand IFPS (Homebuilders®) in Washington State. The centerpiece of Washington State’s demonstration project—implementing a differential response to allegations of child abuse or neglect—is intended to provide supports and services needed to keep children who are alleged to be abused or neglected safely in their own homes. One purpose of the project is to prevent and reduce out-of-home placements. The goals and purposes for differential response are closely tied to the expansion of IFPS.

According to the waiver application, past outcomes experienced by Washington State specific to Intensive Family Preservation Services using the Homebuilders® model include:

  • Appropriate connection of families to community resources;
  • Avoidance of new referrals to the department for Child Protective Services, Child and Family Welfare Services, or Family Response Services within one year of the most recent IFPS case closure by the department;
  • Prevention of placement or achievement of placement stabilization or reunification in 95 percent of cases;
  • Reduction in the length of stay in out-of-home placement, for reunification cases;
  • Reduction in level of risk factors as indicated by North Carolina Family Assessment Scale;
  • Prevention of reentry into out-of-home placement for over 75 percent of cases during the six months following termination of services.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services anticipates that expanding IFPS services by 10% will save $1 million during the five-year project.

The next time you contact your federal senator or congressional representatives, thank them for enacting PSSF and Title IV-E Waivers!

(Eileen West, ACF/Children’s Bureau, contributed information about the PSSF program.)


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

Protective Factors

In a February 2014 Issue Brief, the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information and resources on protective factors.

According to this brief, protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate risk and promote healthy development and well-being.

Put simply, they are the strengths that help to buffer and support families at risk. This definition could also describe IFPS services, indicating that IFPS and protective factors are interrelated.

Protective factors build on a family’s strengths, just as IFPS does. Here are the five key protective factors, as developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy:

  • Parental Resilience
  • Social Connections
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need
  • Social-Emotional Competence of Children

Now, let’s see if there is a corollary for these 5 factors in IFPS services:

  • Parental Resilience: IFPS emphasizes home-based services focusing on developing parental coping abilities so that children can safely remain in their homes.
  • Social Connections: IFPS is a brief service so it is important to link families to social and community connections that will provide long-term support for the family.
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: IFPS therapists devote considerable time to teaching skills to parents that are based on the child’s age and development.
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need: One of the earliest and most consistent findings of IFPS research is the impact of concrete services on successful outcomes.
  • Social-Emotional Competence of Children: IFPS views children as integral members of the family who are included in planning and receiving services, and whose increased social and emotional well-being are critical in keeping families together.

Research on protective factors shows a subset that are are of particular interest to IFPS services because they have the strongest empirical support as shown in the following chart:

Protective Factors with the Strongest Evidence

The following are definitions for some of the individual protective factors:

  • Selfregulation skills refer to ability to manage or control emotions and behaviors, which can include anger management, character, long‐term self‐control, and emotional intelligence.
  • Relational skills refer to ability to form positive bonds and connections (e.g., social competence, being caring, forming prosocial relationships) and interpersonal skills (e.g., communication skills and conflict‐resolution skills).
  • Problemsolving skills refer to adaptive functioning skills and ability to solve problems.

Self‐regulation skills, relational skills, and problem‐solving skills are related to positive outcomes such as resiliency, having supportive friends, positive academic performance, improved cognitive functioning, and better social skills. They are also related to reductions in post‐traumatic stress disorder, stress, anxiety, depression, and delinquency.

Now, share how you develop protective factors with your IFPS families!


To view the Issue Brief on Protective Factors, visit:
To view the research on Protective Factors, see:
(PDF, 512, Kb)
Here’s a creative portrayal of protective factors and definitions:—Emotional-Competence-of-Children.html


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

Featured IFPS Program: Tennessee

(Tennessee is the fifth state in our series of featured IFPS programs. See more at State Profiles.)

Tennessee was one of the first states to implement IFPS statewide. After discontinuing IFPS for a time, Tennessee is now again considering statewide implementation. All eyes are on a federally-funded pilot project that is testing IFPS with families involved in substance abuse. The project is also a collaborative that includes mental health, substance abuse, and child welfare.

1. How long has your state offered IFPS? Share about the history of IFPS in your state.

Ours is a partnership of a state mental health and substance abuse authority, state child welfare, community-based mental health center, and nonprofit research organization. The partnership began in 2012 when we applied for a collaborative grant with the Administration for Children and Families.

2. Why does your state/agency offer IFPS?

We had previous experience with IFPS as a statewide service designed to keep children safely and successfully in their homes rather than in state custody. A grant opportunity became available that allowed us to test the IFPS model on a smaller scale and evaluate its efficiency in families where parental substance abuse is an issue.

3. What qualities do you want to see in providers of IFPS, both at the agency and at the therapist level?

We look for a culturally competent team of master’s level clinical staff that is comfortable being family focused and values “family” as a necessary contributor to children’s wellbeing. Staff must be open to IFPS values and competencies, and have a passion for direct service delivery. Keeping children safe and making a positive difference for them and their families must be staff’s top priority.

4. What qualities do you look for in an IFPS therapist?

The data have shown that families are more hopeful after experiencing IFPS. There is some decay after six to 12 months, but families still remain more hopeful than at baseline. Families indicate appreciation to their therapist for new skills and connections. Families also report a more positive attitude around child welfare since IFPS.

5. How do you measure success of IFPS services? How successful are IFPS services in your state?

We examine the extent to which we have been able to reduce entry into custody, as well as re-entry reductions for re-unification cases. We are further collecting data on increased social and emotional development of children and families using the North Carolina Family Assessment Scales.

6. What advice and resources can you share with other states that want to establish a strong IFPS program?

Contact the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) for guidance. They will work with you in determining how to establish a strong IFPS program. Their IFPS Toolkit, available on the NFPN website, is also very useful, as are other site resources.

Dr. Edwina Chappell
Principal Investigator
TIES Project

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