Academic journal article Child Welfare

A Preventive Services Program Model for Preserving and Supporting Families over Time

Academic journal article Child Welfare

A Preventive Services Program Model for Preserving and Supporting Families over Time

Article excerpt

Selected findings from a three-year study are reported regarding a prospective sample of 189 families served by the Center for Family Life's preventive services program and the nature and results of the services the families received. The program combines elements of both family preservation and family support services to provide a comprehensive, individualized response to families in need and prevent the unnecessary placement of children in care. Four program elements correspond with those typically identified as characterizing family preservation programs, and three key program elements differentiate the Center's approach from other family preservation programs. These latter characteristics are more typically found in family support programs and address limitations of current family preservation programs as identified in the literature.

In this time of change in social policy and service delivery systems, the programmatic options available to address families' diverse and challenging needs and problems must be expanded [Kamerman 1996]. In the past two decades, two distinct program models have emerged to address the needs of vulnerable families: family preservation and family support. The first was specifically designed to prevent, through the provision of intensive brief services, the imminent out-of-home placement of children in families on the verge of breaking apart. The second was envisioned as providing a range of continuously available primary prevention services to all families who perceived themselves as needing such support. There are many families, however, whose needs place them somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes: families who are not yet at serious risk of breakdown, but whose needs and problems are too complex to be adequately addressed by family support services.

This article describes a program to prevent the unnecessary placement of children in out-of-home care. The program combines elements of both family preservation and family support services into a comprehensive yet individualized response to families in need. The description draws upon the findings from a threeyear study of the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.l The discussion focuses specifically on the Center's preventive program, a core service in this multiservice community-based agency.

Selected study findings are reported regarding a prospective sample of 189 families served by this program and the nature and results of the services they received. Study sample families received services directly and through intra- and interagency referrals by a social worker in the preventive program. At the conclusion of the study's data collection phase (30 months), almost all (98.6%) of the 423 study sample children remained with their families. All five families in which a child had been placed continued to receive Center services either in the preventive program, the neighborhood foster care program, or other Center programs. In addition, 87.9% of the sample families' service needs had been addressed. This model provides a prototype for delivering comprehensive, integrated, and individualized services required by families with complex and varying sets of needs and problems.

Family Preservation and Family Support Programs:

Two Models for Serving Families

Even a cursory reading of the professional literature in the 1990s reveals the extent of the ongoing effort to identify programs and practice approaches that preserve families and prevent children's unnecessary placement in out-of-home care. Beneficial effects of family preservation services have been reported [Berry 1992; Cole & Duva 1990; Feldman 1990; Fraser et al. 1991; Fraser et al. 1997; Jones et al.1976; Kinney et al.1991; Kinney et al.1977; McCroskey & Meezan 1997; Wells & Whittington 1993]. Many difficulties and issues, however, have been identified in defining and measuring service effects [Fraser et al. …

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