IFPS Nationwide Surveys

When the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) was founded 25 years ago, the first publication, released in 1994, was a nationwide survey of Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS).

The first IFPS survey was at the program level with 223 IFPS programs listed as meeting the following criteria:
• Serve a maximum of 4 families per worker
• Deliver services in the home and community
• Meet at least 15 of the 20 characteristics of IFPS (based on Homebuilders model)

Most of the programs listed were in a dozen states that had a statewide model. The bulk of funding was provided by the states with a small number of programs also receiving federal, county, city, or private foundation funding.

It would be another 13 years before the next IFPS nationwide survey was published in 2007. Twenty states responded to the survey stating that they provided IFPS services. However, there was a wide variation in the models of service and thus limitations on any conclusive findings.

In 2011 NFPN released another IFPS survey and this time exemplary IFPS programs were separated from less intensive programs. Fourteen states met criteria for exemplary IFPS and findings included:
• Safety is a hallmark with few IFPS deaths reported in a five-year period of time
• Key components of intensity are adhered to including 24/7 availability of worker, low caseload (2-4 families), brief length of service (4-6 weeks), and high number of face-to-face hours spent with families (average of 47 hours per IFPS intervention)
• Exemplary IFPS programs have written program standards, monitor compliance, and conduct evaluations
• A clinical model was used by 65% of IFPS programs

To view the 2011 IFPS Survey visit: http://www.nfpn.org/preservation/2011-ifps-survey

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of IFPS, NFPN released a special edition of the IFPS nationwide survey in 2014. A dozen states were listed with exemplary IFPS programs. A comparison of IFPS then and now included a letter from an early supporter of IFPS, Douglas Nelson from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a side-by-side comparison of IFPS in 1992 and in 2104 for several states, and an IFPS timeline.

To view the special edition IFPS Nationwide Survey visit: http://www.nfpn.org/preservation/2014-ifps-survey

More information about the early years of IFPS and the 40th anniversary are available on the Intensive Family Preservation website: http://www.intensivefamilypreservation.org/

In summary, the four nationwide surveys provide a snapshot view of IFPS during a point in time. There have been 7 states with strong IFPS programs that appeared in all the surveys (KY, MO, CT, MI, NC, ND, WA). Cumulatively, the nationwide surveys provide critical information about both the evolution and consistency of IFPS programs and thus serve as a guide for the future development and expansion of IFPS.

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director


Preserving Families for 25 Years

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Our legal name, Intensive Family Preservation Services National Network, reflects the original purpose of the organization: to promote Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS). And we have! From the early days when NFPN served as a clearinghouse for IFPS, conducted the first nationwide survey of IFPS, and developed two videos on IFPS and Mental Health and IFPS and Substance Abuse, to the present where NFPN continues to serve as a clearinghouse for IFPS, has conducted three additional nationwide surveys of IFPS, and has over 30 resources on the website related to IFPS for both intact and reunifying families, NFPN is still promoting IFPS!

NFPN partners with state agencies and private organizations in researching IFPS and developing resources for the field. NFPN has conducted six research studies involving IFPS in the past 15 years. All of them support IFPS as an effective intervention for high-risk families with a wide variety of presenting problems. The most recent study demonstrated that IFPS services are effective with families exhibiting trauma symptoms and indicators.

Resources on NFPN’s website include Request for Proposal (RFP) samples, state annual IFPS reports, practice standards, and training. NFPN has developed a CQI instrument that IFPS programs can use to demonstrate quality assurance. One of the most popular resources is the IFPS ToolKit, a guide for developing and maintaining strong and effective IFPS services that includes the following:
• Definition, history, and benefits of IFPS
• Essential components, standards, and performance measures
• Federal funding sources and payment structure for contractors
• Research and evaluation measures
• A model for Intensive Family Reunification Services

Several state agencies have used the IFPS ToolKit to develop their model of IFPS. To view the ToolKit visit http://www.nfpn.org/preservation/ifps-toolkit.

IFPS is now at a crossroads. Federal and state mandates require that programs meet standards for Evidence-Based Practice. In a study of IFPS programs, Schweitzer et al (2015) report that IFPS does not meet the criteria for the highest level of Evidence-Based Practice because it does not have two random-controlled, published studies of efficacy. However, they do say that IFPS meets a lower standard, that of promising practice. Thus, more studies are needed to fully establish IFPS as Evidence-Based Practice.

NFPN is committing to another 25 years of promoting IFPS, conducting research studies on IFPS, and providing resources, training, and technical assistance to the field.

To view resources on IFPS, visit http://www.nfpn.org/preservation

Posted by Priscilla Martens
Executive Director

Wrapping up 2016

The Preserving Families Blog made its debut in January, the product of two previous blogs that were focused on family preservation. This year we covered the topics of training for in-home services workers, safety, designing an IFPS program, effective prevention programs, changing the child welfare system, and federal legislation.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, federal legislation to expand funding of in-home services, was passed by the House but was not acted upon by the Senate this year. The legislation will need to be re-introduced when the new Congress convenes in January. There will be many other changes at the federal level with new appointments and new policies from the incoming Trump administration. Similar changes will also be forthcoming at the state and local levels.

The new decision-makers may not be familiar with family preservation and in-home services and their critical importance in a continuum of services for families. All of us need to focus on informing, advocating, and providing the best resources and services possible in 2017.

For now, please take a well-deserved rest from all of your hard work this year and spend some wonderful time with your own family. We’ll meet again next year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted by Priscilla Martens

NFPN Executive Director

Changing the Child Welfare System–2

In the last post, we discussed how the state of Connecticut is changing its child welfare system and the focus was on the back end of the system. This time we’ll look at efforts being made to change the front end of the system.

Joette Katz, Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, says that the child welfare system has historically viewed families as the source of the problem rather than part of the solution. The system is risk averse so the default option is often the most drastic one: removal of a child from the home.

Commissioner Katz believes that families must be at the center of the solution so she has implemented the Strengthening Families practice model which has family engagement as its foundation. The model emphasizes support services for families, strength-based case plans that are responsive to the family’s needs and values, and a strategy to preserve the family. Connecticut is using the Eckerd Rapid Safety Feedback tool to identify the highest-risk families and then establish an action plan to mitigate safety risks and prioritize tasks.

Connecticut is a leader in trauma-informed practice and was one of the first to screen children in the child welfare system for trauma. Since 2007 more than 50,000 children have been screened for trauma and over 8,600 professionals, including child welfare workers, have received training. Trauma-focused services for school-age children have been expanding over the past decade. Now the focus is turning to children under age 5, of whom 12,000 were included in reports of child abuse/neglect in 2014.

The federal government is funding a five-year Early Childhood Trauma Collaborative that will train 500 people who work with young children on recognizing signs of trauma and connecting children to services. The funding will also be used to help outpatient clinics offer treatments that have been shown to be effective with young children.

Connecticut provides a robust Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) program to prevent the unnecessary placement of children. A higher percentage of families in the child welfare system receive family preservation services in Connecticut than in other states. The state reports a 92% rate in keeping families together that have received IFPS.

Commissioner Katz says that her goal is to change the culture of child welfare from one of blame to one in which we are all members of a team with the goal of making families stronger and children safer. NFPN heartily endorses that goal as reflected in our logo: Safe Children, Strong Families!

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director

Changing the Child Welfare System

Ten years ago this month the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) released a paper, An Effective Child Welfare System, featuring the Allegheny County child welfare system in Pittsburgh, PA. This child welfare system reduced foster care placements, reunified children with family, and placed children with relatives, doing all of these goals at two to three times the rate of other state child welfare systems. In addition, there were no child deaths from abuse or neglect for a period of three years in a population of over 1 million people. Allegheny County is still a model child welfare system and you can view the paper here: http://www.nfpn.org/articles/monograph-an-effective-child-welfare-system

In revisiting effective child welfare systems, this time we’re going to look at Connecticut’s child welfare system. We’ll begin with the back end of the child welfare system and work our way to the front. Connecticut is one of 21 states whose child welfare system is under federal oversight through a court consent decree. When Joette Katz, a former judge, was appointed 6 years ago as Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, there were 50 group homes statewide in which dependent children were frequently placed and only 21% of children were placed with relatives. Many children were sent out of state for mental health treatment. Commissioners averaged 18 months on the job.

Commissioner Katz adopted a Strengthening Families practice model which has family engagement as its foundation. The goal is to preserve the family unit and minimize the disruption and trauma associated with the removal, placement, and separation of the child from the family. In two years Commissioner Katz reduced out-of-state placements by 97% and congregate care by 67% while doubling the number of children placed with relatives. All of this took place during a time of large cuts to the child welfare budget. The state has met 16 of the 22 outcome requirements from the consent decree and is on track to exit federal oversight. The child fatality rate is the third lowest in the nation.
One of the biggest impacts in the back end of Connecticut’s child welfare system was the dramatic reduction (67%) in congregate care. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has been instrumental in the reduction in use of congregate care. Take a look at their data:
 *57,000 children nationwide are living in group placements
 *4 in 10 children have no medical/mental health diagnosis or behavioral problem warranting group placement
 *Group placement costs 7-10 times the cost of placing a child with a family
 *States range from 4%-35% of children in the child welfare system placed in group care with an average of 14%

Casey Foundation states that one way to reduce group placements is to have the top child welfare administrator approve all group placements as is the case in Connecticut. To read the Casey report on group care visit http://www.aecf.org/resources/every-kid-needs-a-family/

The Casey Foundation also has a report on kinship care noting that 2.7 million children live with extended family, or 1 in every 11 children and about 29% of the children in foster care. Kinship care increases child safety, stability, permanence, and well-being by maintaining familial and community bonds, sense of belonging, and by minimizing trauma. View the kinship report at http://www.aecf.org/resources/stepping-up-for-kids/

Still another report focuses on the increase in the number of children being raised by grandfamilies due to the opioid epidemic. Over 40% of children placed with relatives are removed because of parental drug or alcohol abuse. Shaheed Morris was born with fetal distress due to his mother’s alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. When his mother deserted him at the hospital, his grandmother claimed him although she had little money and only a 5th grade education. Shaheed graduated from university this year with a degree in journalism. He is still close to his 89 year old grandmother. For more stories like Shaheed’s see http://www.gu.org/Portals/0/documents/Reports/16-Report-State_of_Grandfamiles.pdf

In the next post, we’ll see how Connecticut addressed the front end of the child welfare system.

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director

The Leader in Me

September is back-to-school month. The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) believes that strong families build strong schools. But is the opposite also true? Can strong schools build strong families?

An elementary school principal in Raleigh, NC, decided to build a strong school. She asked teachers, parents, and local employers what they wanted from a school. The teachers wanted to be proud of their school, use their talents, feel like they made a difference, and teach self-motivated students. Parents wanted their children to make responsible decisions, use their time well, and grow up to make positive contributions to society. Employers wanted employees to have a strong work ethic, self-motivation, and communication skills. What everyone wanted essentially boiled down to “leadership” and so The Leader in Me was born.

Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People were adapted to become The 7 Habits of Happy Kids (with following condensed explanation in kid language):
1) Be Proactive = You’re in Charge. I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods.
2) Begin with the End in Mind = Have a Plan. I plan ahead and set goals. I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school’s mission and vision.
3) Put First Things First = Work First, Then Play. I spend my times on things that are most important. I am disciplined and organized.
4) Think Win-Win = Everyone Can Win. I balance courage for getting what I want with consideration for what others want.
5) Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood = Listen Before You Talk. I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings. I listen to others without interrupting.
6) Synergize = Together is Better. I seek out other people’s ideas to solve problems because I know that by teaming with others we can create better solutions than anyone of us can alone. I am humble.
7) Sharpen the Saw = Balance Feels Best. I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting sleep.

Do these 7 Habits build strong families? A boy diagnosed with a cognitive delay and oppositional defiance enrolled in a school with The Leader in Me program. Within days his father noticed a change in his son. Then his son started teaching the habits to his father and other family members. When the father attended a parent night, he stated that what the school was teaching students had changed his life. And then the father revealed that he had been involved with drugs, was arrested, and fled while awaiting a court hearing. After learning from his son about taking responsibility, the father decided to turn himself in. He said, “This boy’s my hero.” The school principal sent the judge a letter about the father’s relationship with his son. The judge decided not to impose jail time in order to allow the father to remain with his son and to continue to do things to make a difference in the community. That sounds a lot like strong schools building strong families!

The Leader in Me has been implemented in over 3,000 schools in all states and 50 countries. Panda Express frequently funds these programs. For more information, visit http://www.theleaderinme.org/

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Prevention Programs

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) frequently receives inquiries about effective prevention programs for families. In this blog post, NFPN will highlight two prevention programs. Both of these programs will be featured in The 2016 National Conference for America’s Children, October 17-20, Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information about the conference visit http://preventchildabuse.org/get-involved/2016-national-conference/.

The first program, Family Connections (FC), targets families at risk of child maltreatment. A practitioner performs the following tasks (condensed from the program description in the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare):
o Uses screening criteria that indicate a risk of maltreatment
o Initiates the therapeutic relationship through face-to-face contact with the family within one business day of acceptance into the FC program
o Provides at least one hour of face-to-face services to families at least once per week for at least three months
o Provides most services in the community, meeting families where they live
o Uses standardized clinical assessment instruments to guide the identification of risk and protective factors associated with child maltreatment
o Provides emergency/concrete services to address concrete needs
o Conducts comprehensive family assessments to guide the service delivery process
o Develops outcome-driven service plans geared to decrease risk and increase protective factors associated with child maltreatment
o Delivers tailored and direct therapeutic services to help families reduce risks, maximize protective factors, and achieve service outcomes and goals
o Advocates on behalf of families in the community and facilitates services delivery by other organizations/individuals

Evaluation of Family Connections produced these outcomes:
• Increase in appropriate parenting attitudes
• Increase in satisfaction with parenting, and social support of trusting and authoritative figures in their lives
• Decrease in depressive symptoms
• Decrease in caregiver drug use
• Decrease in caregiver stress and everyday stress
• Decrease in child behavior problems

For more information on Family Connections as an Evidence-Based Practice, visit http://www.cebc4cw.org/program/family-connections/detailed.

The other prevention program highlighted in this post is the Integrated Family Services program in San Francisco. Integrated Family Services is a way of organizing direct services to families that focuses on Five Protective Factors (parental resilience, social connections, concrete supports, knowledge of parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children) as outcomes. Families who meet eligibility requirements (residing in San Francisco and caring for a child 12 or under) are primarily referred by doctors, schools, health department, and self-referred.

Families participate in an assessment process to identify the family’s strengths and challenges vis-à-vis the Five Protective Factors. Based on this assessment and the family’s articulation of their needs, the program offers team-based services, including intensive case management, psychotherapy, and parent education.

Service planning is directed by a Clinical Care Coordinator, who is the primary contact with the family and is accountable for outcomes. Reassessment and revision of the service plan, if necessary, happens every three months, until families reach their desired goals and protective factors are strengthened. Care coordinators provide six months of low-intensity aftercare, to support families in the gains they have made.

For more information, visit http://sfcapc.org/

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director