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

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

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

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

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Designing an IFPS Program

Several agencies have used the IFPS Toolkit produced by the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) to design an IFPS program. Let’s take a closer look at how the ToolKit and other resources can be used for that purpose.

The IFPS ToolKit is a comprehensive resource that includes:
 Definition and History of IFPS
 Benefits of IFPS
 Essential Components of IFPS
 RFP and Pay Structure for IFPS Contracts
 Reunification Model
 Step-Down Services….and much more!

The ToolKit contains the basics for designing an IFPS program.
To view the IFPS ToolKit, visit

While the ToolKit is a good place to start, NFPN has other resources available to further assist in designing an IFPS program. NFPN has conducted several nationwide surveys of IFPS. The surveys provide data on exemplary IFPS programs nationwide including the following service components:
 Caseload
 Timeframe for first visit
 Total hours for intervention
 Length of service
 Clinical models
 Training requirements
 Outcomes
 Cost

As you build your IFPS program, you can comparing your design to the well-established, exemplary programs included in the nationwide survey.

To view the 2014 IFPS Nationwide Survey, visit

Dr. Ray Kirk and NFPN have conducted numerous studies on IFPS. The studies use the North Carolina Family Assessment Scales (NCFAS) as pre/post measures of improvement in family functioning. The NCFAS scales were originally developed with and for IFPS programs. The majority of exemplary IFPS programs use the NCFAS tools. Improvement in family functioning is closely associated with placement prevention and successful reunifications. Thus, you can use the NCFAS scales for multiple purposes: prioritizing needs, goals, services, developing a case plan, data collection, and evaluation.

For an overview of the research on the NCFAS scales, including six studies on IFPS, visit

For more information on the NCFAS scales, visit

Following development of an IFPS program, it’s critical to ensure ongoing quality. NFPN has developed a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) instrument for use with IFPS programs. The CQI-IFPS Instrument and supporting materials include the following:
 Introduction (definition, basis in federal law/policy, and purpose of the CQI-IFPS)
 CQI-IFPS Instrument (10 domains covering a total of 75 items)
 Tally Sheet (checklist for reviewers that allows tallying of up to 5 case files)
 Instructions (preparation, reviewing case files, debriefing, using findings to guide improvement in practice)
 Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

You can begin using the CQI with your IFPS program in the second year of operation to establish a baseline.

For more information on the CQI-IFPS instrument visit

Finally, NFPN is always available to provide technical assistance for IFPS program design. Call 888-498-9047 or email

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Family First Prevention Services Act

Federal financing of child welfare is an open-ended entitlement for out-of-home placements whereas funding for prevention (keeping families together) is much more limited and capped. Thus, federal funding is skewed toward placement services with a ratio of 6:1 or perhaps even higher for funding of placement vs. prevention services.

This month ground-breaking legislation has been introduced in Congress to allow foster care funds (Title IV-E) to be used for prevention services. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (H.R. 5456/S. 3065) is a jointly developed House/Senate bill that is now moving forward in the House of Representatives.

Those eligible for the prevention services include children who are at imminent risk of out-of-home placement, children experiencing disrupted guardianships or adoption, and young people in foster care who are pregnant or parenting. There is no income eligibility requirement.

Criteria for services eligible for federal reimbursement include:

  • substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment services provided by a qualified clinician
  • in-home parent skill-based programs including individual and family counseling
  • services and programs that are trauma-informed
  • services and programs that are evidence-based (based on criteria from the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
  • services provided for a maximum of 12 months

The Department of Health and Human Services will provide technical assistance and best practices to states on prevention programs. In addition, the department will establish a clearinghouse of promising, supported, and well-supported practices based on research findings. States must include a well-designed research evaluation for any practice used unless they receive a waiver based on compelling evidence of effectiveness.

The legislation also extends the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (Title IV-B, Subpart 2) for another 5 years (FY 2017-FY 2021). Mandatory funding of $345 million is provided each year plus whatever discretionary funding Congress allocates. There are two changes to the PSSF program that currently funds four types of services: family support, preservation, reunification, and adoption services:

  • the definition of “family support services” is amended to include community services that are designed to support and retain foster families
  • eliminates the current 15-month time limit for reunification services

To view the bill, visit

A detailed summary of the bill is available here:

If your organization is interested in signing on to support the legislation, please contact: Stefanie Sprow, Children’s Defense Fund,

Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director



Framework for Safety

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) was invited to give a workshop on Safety this month. Sheila Searfoss, an NFPN board member, clinician, and trainer, presented the Framework of Safety that she developed to help IFPS therapists and other direct services workers address safety with the families they serve. Here is an overview of the workshop:

Safe is a condition in which the threat of serious harm is not present or imminent or the protective capacities of the family are sufficient to protect the child. Protective capacities refer to the individual and family strengths, resources, or characteristics that mitigate threats of serious harm to the child.

To conduct an effective safety assessment, the worker must answer the following critical questions:

  1. Is there serious harm to the child? If yes, what is the harm?
  2. Is there an immediate threat of serious harm? If yes, describe in behavioral terms.
  3. Is there a vulnerable child?
  4. Are there protective capacities within the family to adequately mitigate any threats of immediate serious harm?
  5. Is there a need for an immediate safety intervention or action?

A decision of “unsafe” requires an immediate safety response to protect the child. It does not necessarily equate with removal of the child from the home but does require a safety plan to protect the child. A safety response also requires interventions. Interventions are specifically employed to control the safety threat and protect a child until more permanent change can take place. Here are some examples of safety interventions if the child remains in the home:

  • Use of family, neighbors, etc. as safety resources
  • Alleged perpetrator leaves the home
  • Family preservation services
  • Emergency medical/mental health services
  • Emergency substance abuse services

The safety plan incorporates all safety interventions and includes the following components:

  • Family involved in developing and implementing the plan
  • A written document prepared by the worker and approved by the supervisor
  • Clear description of the harm, child’s vulnerability, and caregiver’s protective capacities
  • Description of how the caregiver views the situation
  • Description of each intervention, how it will protect the child, who is responsible for implementation, and time frames
  • Details of how the plan’s effectiveness will be monitored

Managing a safety plan involves

  • Regular contacts with the child and all others that have a role in the plan
  • Continuous assessment for new threats of serious harm
  • Continuous work on family engagement
  • Periodic evaluation of the need to alter the safety interventions
  • Inclusion of the safety plan in the case plan
  • Keeping the supervisor informed of the status of the safety plan

Safety reviews provide a formal structure for monitoring and evaluating all the safety issues in a case. The purpose of the safety review is to:

  • Measure the growth in a caregiver’s ability to protect the child
  • Assess whether there have been any changes in the child’s vulnerability that affect safety
  • Decide whether and how to adjust the safety plan (may include increasing or decreasing service intensity)
  • Evaluate the suitability of the safety interventions
  • Consider whether caregiver responsibility and involvement can be increased.

A comprehensive framework for safety guides the worker in assessing harm, developing, implementing and monitoring a safety plan; protects the child from harm; and assists the family with enhancing protective capacities to prevent future harm.

Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Engaging Families

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) provided webinar courses in March for family preservation and in-home services workers. Sheila Searfoss–an NFPN board member, trainer and clinician–generously donated the curricula.

The first session of the training focused on engaging families. Let’s take a closer look at how we can effectively engage families, beginning with the three essentials of engagement:
 Empathy: the ability to perceive and communicate accurately both the current feelings and experiences of another person and the significance of those feelings
 Respect: consider each individual and family to be a unique human being, not a case; view individuals/families as capable of determining their own fates
 Genuineness: not overemphasizing the professional role, being spontaneous but not uncontrolled or haphazard, open and nondefensive, consistent in values, words, and behavior

These essentials help the worker to establish a good working relationship with families characterized by a sense of reciprocity or mutuality, and good communication. The partnership is facilitated with parents by the worker:
 Treating parents with dignity and respect
 Building a relationship based on honesty and mutual respect
 Acknowledging the expertise parents have about their children
 Responding to parents’ stated needs
 Working in collaboration with parents to define the issues to be addressed and the decisions about possible solutions

Engagement requires effective listening. Here’s why effective listening is useful:
 It builds relationship: people feel closer to someone who cares enough to listen
 It helps the family sort out feelings and desires and may help them to begin making decisions

 It helps families feel understood so that they can be more calm and reflective
 It helps families to hear the point of view of others, including the worker
 By listening, the worker obtains more information without having to question or interrogate families
 Listening models effective communication skills

These are some excellent skills for professionals to use not only when engaging clients but also to use with their own families!

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director

Fast Facts About IFPS

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) has analyzed, researched, provided resources and training on, and promoted Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) for the past two dozen years. Here are 10 fast facts about IFPS:
 About a dozen states have an exemplary statewide model of IFPS characterized by 24/7 availability of the IFPS workers, low caseloads (2-4 families at a time), brief length of services (4-6 weeks), 40 or more hours of face-to-face services with families, clinical interventions, and 24/7 supervisory support with case consultation.
 Exemplary IFPS programs serve on average about one-third of the families whose children would otherwise enter out-of-home placement.
 The average cost nationwide to provide quality IFPS services to a family is $6,000 while the average annual cost of out-of-home placement of a child is over $30,000.
 At least 90% of families nationwide remain safely together at the close of IFPS services.
 Exemplary IFPS programs assess families using the North Carolina Family Assessment Scales (NCFASes) that were originally designed for use with IFPS services.
 The most prevalent federal funding source for IFPS is the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) that currently provides $335 million annually for family preservation, family support, reunification, and adoption services.
 The District of Columbia is using a federal Title IV-E waiver to fund IFPS services.
 Research has linked effectiveness of IFPS to the provision of concrete services such as rent, auto repair, utilities, food, etc. While amounts vary across IFPS programs, the average is around $300 per family.
 Exemplary IFPS programs require about 40 hours of initial training for IFPS workers.
 About 75% of exemplary IFPS programs offer step-down services. Some programs offer up to two booster sessions within six months of case closure. Others offer service extensions or less intensive services.
For a more detailed overview of exemplary IFPS programs visit:
For information on how to establish an exemplary IFPS program view the comprehensive IFPS ToolKit:
For information on a quality assurance instrument for IFPS, visit:

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director