An ongoing challenge in the child welfare field has been managing the potential conflict between partnering with families to prevent out-of-home placement or reunifying children with their families while also addressing safety concerns. Federal laws such as the Adoption and Safe Families Act and amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act called for a better balance between protecting children and preserving families. More recent legislation and policy guidance have sought to refocus program and practice efforts on ensuring child well-being and family connections as well as attending to safety and permanency.
Family preservation services are short-term, family-focused services designed to assist families in crisis by improving parenting and family functioning while keeping children safe. Although family preservation programs share many common characteristics, they vary considerably with respect to auspices (public or private agencies), theoretical orientation, target population, identified problem, and primary location of service. Programs also vary dramatically in terms of intensity, duration, caseloads, and teaming with other professionals or paraprofessionals. For example, intensive family preservation services (IFPS) are characterized by small caseloads for workers, short duration of services, 24-hour availability of staff, and the provision of services primarily in the family's home or in another environment familiar to the family.
This section describes policy and program approaches to family preservation services, intensive family preservation services, and provides State and local examples of such services.
Policy and program approaches
A Complete Guide to the Family First Prevention Services Act
Examines the Family First Prevention Services Act and offers an easy-to-understand analysis of its guidelines and implications.
Provides an overview of the Family First Act, resources on topics related to the legislation, communication tools for promoting the website, and a calendar with upcoming related webinars and conference calls.
Family First Prevention Services Act
National Conference of State Legislatures (2020)
Describes sections of the Family First Prevention Services Act that are related to family preservation services, including changes in Title IV-E funding.
Family Preservation and In-Home Services
Capacity Building Center for States
Provides resources, publications, and podcasts on topics related to family preservation and in-home services.
Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act: A Technical Guide for Agencies, Policymakers, and Other Stakeholders
Children’s Defense Fund (2020)
Answers commonly asked questions about implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act for States and Tribes, including what the law states on eligible prevention services and programs, interjurisdictional placements, adoption assistance, child fatalities, and more.
In-Home Services to Strengthen Children and Families
Reasonable Efforts to Preserve or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children
What Are Some Examples of Evidence-Informed Practices to Keep Children Safe and Promote Permanency?
Casey Family Programs (2018)
Offers information on developing and adopting evidence-based practices to meet many child and family needs throughout the life of a case.
Intensive family preservation services
Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS)
Explains key program elements of IFPS, including caseload sizes, time, duration, and locations where IFPS services are provided.
Intensive Family Preservation Services [Video]
Children’s Home Society of NC (2020)
Shares the story of a mother who received intensive family preservation services as well as the stories of the professionals who worked with her. This video details the services included in most intensive family preservation programs and the ways in which they can support families at risk of out-of-home placement.
Programs: Homebuilders IFPS
Institute for Family Development
Describes a program that seeks to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes by providing intensive in-home services to improve family functioning and promote safety. The website offers evaluation information and sample program materials.