Category Archives: Blog Updates

Announcing the New Preserving Families Blog

The Intensive Family Preservation Blog Has a New Home and a New Name

As of January 1, 2016 the National Family Preservation Network will assume authorship of the Intensive Family Preservation Blog under its new name the Preserving Families Blog. Watch for interesting, important and educational posts about Family Preservation.

The IFPS Blog began in April 2013. Since then, 92 posts have addressed 14 key categories for family preservation:


The 40th Anniversary of IFPS offered an opportunity to reach out to some of the most influential individuals across the history of IFPS from its beginning to what is happening today. Their posts can be found in the 40th Anniversary category.


The two most recent posts are:


All the posts from the Intensive Family Preservation Blog remain in the archives of the Preserving Families Blog. You can search by topic or date for posts of interest to you.

You will continue to receive alerts of new posts by email. You can also visit us at our new address: .


Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year. See you in 2016.


Posted by Peg Marckworth

Keeping Kids in Families: A New National Family Preservation Advocacy Campaign

Keeping Kids in Families, a national campaign focused on keeping the best interests of children and their families at the center of decision making, recently emerged on the child welfare advocacy scene.

The campaign describes its work as “leading the charge to make sure that all kids have a safe, secure and permanent family. We are doing this by working collaboratively with policymakers and other key stakeholders to develop a federal financing mechanism that aligns policy and practice and helps us to build a child welfare system that is designed to serve more children and families sooner, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.”

Keeping Kids in Families is a joint effort of three of the largest networks of private and public agencies working to strengthen the lives of children and families: the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, and the National Organization of State Associations for Children (NOSAC).

The organization’s purpose is to “strengthen our nation’s child welfare system through investments in prevention, early interventions and treatments that keep children safe and in permanent families, whenever possible.”

The efforts they seek include:

  • Strengthen families and keep children safe in their homes whenever possible, preventing traumatic and expensive entry into foster care.
  • Promote evidence informed practices that improve outcomes while also ensuring that we don’t get in the way of practical, low-cost supports that can make the difference for a family.
  • Better leverage resources across all levels of government and community supports.

In 2014 the group released its Shared Principles for Aligning Federal Financing to Child and Family Success which include Child and Family Centered Principles, System Centered Principles and Finance Reform Principles.

Read all their Principles here

The Keeping Kids in Families October 2015 newsletter included this legislative update:

“As the Keeping Kids in Families campaign continues to grow and expand its policy influence, we are seeing a number of legislative proposals that align with our work.”

The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act is an example of legislation in line with the Keeping Kids in Families Finance Reform Principles:

  • A new outcomes-oriented accountability framework balances oversight and flexibility.
  • The federal-state-local partnership includes a guaranteed base funding and a mechanism for risk sharing.
  • The federal government establishes accountability across programs and agencies as part of an integrated system.
  • Federal child welfare financing is available without regard to the parent’s income

Family Stability and Kinship Care Act, Sen. Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Doggett (D-Texas)

The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 calls for greater investments in prevention and early interventions programs that keep children safe and in permanent families, whenever possible. The legislation would allow the use of Title IV-E funds for time-limited family services and provide 25% of expenditures for evidence based programs. Under this legislation, Title IV-B would increase to $1 billion mandatory funding. Title IV-B is the primary federal funding source for IFPS.

An August 5, 2015 press release

from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, titled “New Child Welfare Bill Focuses on Keeping Families Together,” provides background on the bill and its importance.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was joined by seven other members of the committee today in introducing a bill to keep families together by allowing the nation’s largest child welfare funding stream to support front-end family services to reduce unnecessary foster care stays.

Currently, the majority of federal child welfare dollars is spent on foster care. The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act would give states the flexibility to use federal funds to pay for preventive services that can stabilize families and keep kids out of foster care and safe at home or with kin.

Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Washington State currently have Title IV-E waivers that have allowed them to test innovative approaches such as investing in front-end child welfare service delivery to help families remain safely together. Wyden’s legislation would allow every state to permanently make these types of investments with federal support.

Read a one-page summary of the bill provided by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.

On October 21, 2015 Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee, introduced H.R. 3781: Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015, a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Posted by Peg Marckworth

Washington State Legislature Pairs Funding With Programs That Adhere To Evidence-Based and Research-Based Practice Standards

Three years ago the Washington State Legislature began requiring state funded programs for children and families to adhere to evidence-based and research based standards. House Bill 2536 passed in 2012 (chief sponsors Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and Sen. Jim Hargrove) states: “The legislature recognizes that the use of evidence-based practices plays a very important role in the delivery of services to children and juveniles. Especially in times of diminished resources, it is critical to fund practices which are known to provide desired outcomes rather than continue to expend moneys on programs that may be familiar but less effective.

Evidence-based practices or programs are those that are cost-effective and include at least two randomized or statistically controlled evaluations across heterogeneous populations demonstrating that the program or practice is effective in obtaining improved outcomes for its intended population.”

Judy Lightfoot, writing for Crosscut, looks at the impact of HB 2536 on the state’s juvenile justice system and the foster-care sector of the child welfare system in her June 2015 article: Can science save abused, neglected kids – and money, too?

“Keeping children out of foster care,” Lightfoot writes, “(like reducing recidivism among youthful offenders) happens best when we strengthen families. Even in the case of families that have been reported to Protective Services, children are better off staying with their parents, as long as they are deemed reasonably safe, because pulling kids out of their homes to live with strangers inflicts further trauma. The 2014 inventory calls Homebuilders Intensive Family Preservation Services effective at keeping families intact by teaching parenting strategies and life skills that improve the way families function in crisis.”

Lightfoot explores the question: Can science really save money?

“Cost-benefit analyses depend on complex statistical calculations, and it’s hard to put a dollar value on inputs and outcomes in social services. In many instances, the data aren’t available to make same-year, apples-to-apples comparisons. That said, there are examples from juvenile crime, foster care and education systems suggesting that science-based interventions in Washington are already saving money — and promise additional savings in the future.

Turning to the foster care system: Cost-benefit data in the 2014 inventory sent to the legislature show that Homebuilders Family Preservation Services, besides getting high E/RBP marks, also saves child welfare dollars, partly by preventing the kind of abuse or neglect that lands children in foster settings. In 2008, per-child costs of the Homebuilders program were $3,224, and per-child benefits totaled $10,995, for a savings of $7,771 per child.

Having to send even a few of those kids into foster care would significantly strain the public purse. National data show that foster care costs more than $22,000 per child per year, and about 53 percent of foster children remain in the system for a year or more. In Washington State, 8,382 children were in out-of-home foster placements in the first quarter of 2015, according to Partners for Our Children. Using the national per-child-per-year figure above, keeping just 3,000 of these youngsters in foster care for one year would cost the state $66 million.”

Read the whole Crosscut article here

Learn More About Intensive Family Preservation Services Free Resources for IFPS

The IFPS Blog is now over two years old and contains 75 posts divided into 15 categories to assist you with finding the one you need. The Intensive Family Preservation Services website ( is one year old with material about IFPS, its history, the 40th Anniversary of IFPS in 2014, and resource material not easily available elsewhere.

In this post we feature several blog posts from the last two years and links to free resources for the field of IFPS.

It is our hope that you will find this information useful. We also hope that you regularly share blog posts and resources for IFPS with your colleagues at work, through social media, and at every opportunity! We all benefit from sharing!

While the IFPS blog posts and other materials on the IFPS website will remain available, external links often work only for a limited time, so be sure to save documents to your computer that you want to keep for long-term reference.


Here are five sample articles. Check out all our posts at the link above:

IFPS Bibliography
Includes resources on the Basics of IFPS, Policy, Research and Program Evaluation, as well as out-of-print resources (that we wish were still in print).
Read more »

Additional Resources for IFPS
Written resources and web links recommended by the Institute for Family Development.
Read more »

IFPS Nationwide Survey, 2014
Detailed information on exemplary IFPS programs nationwide. Conducted by the National Family Preservation Network.
Read more »

IFPS Toolkit
A resource guide for the development and maintenance of IFPS services.
Read more »

Intensive Family Preservation Services: An Instructional Sourcebook
Includes Background Papers on Intensive Family Preservation Services Practices, Issues Papers on Intensive Family Preservation Services, and Guidelines for Practicum Placements in Intensive Family Preservation Services Agencies: the Homebuilders® Experience.
Read more »

Sample IFPS Therapist Job Description
A complete overview of the IFPS Therapist job using the Homebuilders model®.
Read more »

Sample IFPS Evaluation
The 2014 Intensive In-Home Service Annual Report for the state of Missouri.
Read more »

Sample Request for Application for IFPS
North Carolina Division of Social Services application for eligible grantees to develop, operate, and/or expand community-based Intensive Family Preservation Services.
Read more »

Sample IFPS Training RFP
Intensive In-Home Services/Intensive Family Reunification Services Staff Training RFP from Missouri.
Read more »

IFPS Effectiveness
Final Report: Retrospective Evaluation of Intensive Family Preservation Services. August 2000; Raymond S. Kirk, Ph.D., Jordan Institute for Families, UNC-Chapel Hill.
Read more »



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




The May 2015 Zero to Three Journal focuses on supporting fathers and mothers as coparents. Although referring to parents of infants in the mental health system, the articles are applicable to parents of children of all ages in all systems. Here’s what I think gets to the heart of the matter as quoted from the first article by James P. McHale and Vicky Phares: “In jurisdictions across the United State, fathers are still often seen as trespassers in work with mothers and infants. Instead of adopting the posture: ‘Where is the child’s father? We cannot begin work without him. Let’s redouble our energies to get him in here, engage with him, help him understand that our efforts on behalf of his baby will not succeed without him,’ infant mental health professionals reflexively accept that he is not their target.”   That statement could readily be applied to many other child/family-serving systems, including the child welfare system.

But why? Why, after all these years of an ever-increasing body of knowledge of the importance of fathers, numerous fatherhood initiatives and programs, and federal grants to fund Responsible Fatherhood programs are fathers still viewed as “trespassers?” McHale and Phares list the following reasons:

  • Fathers who do not provide financial support for their children are viewed as untrustworthy and underserving
  • Female providers are not comfortable working with men
  • The “men’s movement” is associated with possessive, controlling, and domineering fathers
  • Fathers are not necessary

Let’s compare those reasons with survey responses of Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) workers when asked the extent to which they involve fathers in the intervention. IFPS workers spend a large amount of time with families, usually 40 hours or more over the course of the intervention. The workers knew the identity of the father 75% of the time. But only half the time workers knew where the father lived, established contact with him, involved the father in the case plan and services, and involved the father in connecting with the child. What were some of the barriers for the other half of the time when there was little engagement of fathers?

  • The mother refused to identify the father
  • The mother revealed the identity of the father but did not want him involved
  • The father has too many problems that prevent him from being a resource
  • The referring worker did not require the father’s involvement

How can the field of IFPS address these barriers? Framing father involvement as coparenting is one way, and note that coparents may also include kin, step-parents, foster parents, etc. A successful coparenting movement will require a concerted effort that includes joining forces across industries and systems, finding new sources of funding, identifying and scaling up effective models (the federally-funded Responsible Fatherhood programs have not yet produced definitive findings or models), addressing the primarily female workforce perspective, and promoting coparenting in all forms of media.

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) has promoted father involvement for the past 15 years and is happy to join the coparenting movement.

Here are some free resources to assist the field of IFPS with father involvement/coparenting:

IFPS Guide to Father Involvement:

Meeting the federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) standards for father involvement:

Overview of federal fatherhood funding:


Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director

National Family Preservation Network


In recent years there has been a substantial increase in prescription drug abuse and that has been paralleled by an increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS refers to the withdrawal symptoms experienced by infants exposed to drugs. From 55% to 90% of infants will experience withdrawal at birth following exposure to drugs passed from mother to infant in the womb.

Some symptoms of withdrawal in babies may include:

  • Tremors (trembling)
  • Irritability (excessive and high-pitched crying)
  • Sleep problems
  • Tight muscle tone
  • Vomiting
  • Poor feeding
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Fever or unstable temperature

States are seeing significant increases in the numbers of NAS infants. Tennessee has seen a ten-fold increase in the past 10 years. The cost of stabilizing a newborn with NAS is about $63,000 in Tennessee. One-fourth of newborns diagnosed with NAS are placed in state custody within one year of birth. And 40% of referrals to an IFPS program in Tennessee involve NAS infants.

Referrals are often made to IFPS while infants are still in the hospital. It is critical to prepare the parents for the baby’s discharge. Infants may experience withdrawal symptoms for up to six months and parents describe this time as an “emotional roller coaster.” The Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care has a helpful guide for parents available here: There is also a guide for service providers:

Many women who are drug-dependent also have psychiatric disorders. Wraparound services are recommended for these women and IFPS is an excellent example of wraparound service. A good overview of NAS nationwide and treatment protocols is available here:

When infants are placed in out-of-home care for abuse or neglect (which includes NAS referrals), there is a new court approach called Safe Babies Court Teams. The goal is to change local systems to improve outcomes and prevent future court involvement in the lives of very young children. This approach includes training professionals, providing resources, encouraging collaboration, and increasing parent-child contact, mental health capacity and placement stability. Thus far, two evaluations indicate that the Court Teams Project is experiencing success in reaching its goals. For more information, visit:

IFPS programs looking for additional resources can find a comprehensive model published by the federal SAMHSA agency. The Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery (SAFERR) model is designed to help practitioners respond to families affected by substance abuse disorders. The SAFERR model promotes a coordinated approach involving the child welfare system, drug and alcohol services, and the courts. Many of the shared principles reflect the values of IFPS services: children deserve to live in safety, families are capable of defining their needs, strengths, and can actively participate in the development of case plans, removal of children should occur only when there are no other options to ensure safety, and staff should have the knowledge, skills, tools, empathy, and resources to do their jobs well. The SAFERR model is available here:


Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director

National Family Preservation Network

IFPS, Trauma, and Well-Being


New research on trauma and its potential for precipitating lifelong problems compels IFPS programs to address trauma. Traditional child well-being has focused primarily on safety and permanence. However, trauma is now known to affect psycho-social, emotional, cognitive and even physical development. The research is clear that traumatic stress affects well-being in increasingly predictable ways. Traumatic stress is characterized as different from “normal stress” in that the traumatic events were neither expected nor preventable (by the victim), and the victim was unprepared for them or their aftermath.

The federal government requires agencies to address trauma and well-being in all grant proposals. States are increasingly following that example with grants and contracted funding including the requirement to address trauma and well-being. What do we know about trauma and well-being that informs the field of IFPS?

Let’s look at the results of a recent study of trauma and post-trauma well-being.

Findings of Research Study

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN), in cooperation with Dr. Ray Kirk, designed a study to assess families for trauma. Following services, the families were again assessed for post-trauma well-being. Several IFPS agencies participated in the study. Results? Families made substantial progress following treatment for trauma symptomology. The following charts summarize the findings:

Intake/Pre-Service Assessment

Assessment Results Families
Trauma identified 81%
No trauma identified 19%


Item Families with Mild Problem Rating(-1) Families with Moderate or Serious Problem Ratings(-2, -3)
Traumatic Sexual Abuse of Children 7% 6%
Traumatic Physical Abuse of Children 9% 11%
Traumatic Neglect of Children 23% 21%
Emotional/Psychological Abuse
of Children
27% 21%
Parent/Caregiver Trauma 20% 37%


Closure/Post-Service Assessment

Item Families with Mild Problem Rating(-1) Families with Moderate or Serious Problem Ratings(-2, -3)
Post-Trauma Cognitive/Physical
Well-Being of Children
Post-Trauma Emotional/Psychological Well-Being of Children 8% 4%
Post-Trauma Parent/Caregiver
13% 12%


To read the complete report, visit

What can the field of IFPS glean from this study?

IFPS programs are a valuable resources for families experiencing trauma! Most of the families in the study had indications of trauma. Many of these families received trauma services from the IFPS counselor. And, following services, the families demonstrated substantial improvement in post-trauma well-being. Thus, the study showed that IFPS programs are capable of identifying trauma, providing appropriate services to promote recovery and healing from trauma, and demonstrating that families can indeed recover from traumatic experiences.

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