Home-Based Services for Troubled Children

By Ira M. Schwartz; Philip Auclaire | Go to book overview

Notes
New federal legislation was passed in August 1993 to strengthen troubled families. Hailed as the most significant reform of federally funded child welfare services since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 [ P.L.96-272], the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 [ P.L.103-66] provides $1 billion to the states, over a five-year period, for early intervention, prevention, and family support services ( Binder, 1993). The legislation calls specifically for family preservation services.
Recent reviews of intensive family preservation services include one by myself in Child Welfare ( 1994) and one by Rossi ( 1992) in Children and Youth Services Review. The literature I review here includes reports available through roughly early 1992. Some have not been subjected to peer review (e.g., reports from state departments of human services); see Knitzer & Cole ( 1989) for a list of some recent outcome studies that have been conducted as a part of a state evaluation effort. As a result, this literature has not been subjected to as much scientific scrutiny, effort to integrate findings, and debate as has literature pertaining to more established services.
Adequate attention has not been paid to differences in outcome expected as a function of the system in which services are provided. While the focus and purpose of family preservation services within the child welfare system are well described, they have been altered when services have been transported to and described in the language of other systems. However, the overriding purposes of these systems differ, and the impact of these differences upon the target and goals of family preservation services has not been debated. For example, a major limitation of the child mental health system is its inability to provide services to all the children who need them, whereas a major limitation of the juvenile justice system is its inability to reduce the number of children under its purview. The implications of these differing contexts for service provision need to be delineated. Indeed, it may be asking too much of services designed to stabilize family crises to achieve meaningful treatment goals (one major purpose of the child mental health system) in some populations of severely emotionally disturbed children, or to eliminate recidivism (one major purpose of the juvenile justice system) with some chronic juvenile offenders.

References
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. § 670.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Block Grant Program of 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 300x et seq.
AuClaire P., & Schwartz I. ( 1986). An evaluation of the effectiveness of intensivehome-based services as an alternative to placement for adolescents and their families

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