Family Preservation Services: Fact Sheet
Family Preservation Services (FPS) are comprehensive, short-term, intensive services for families delivered primarily in the home and designed to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children or to promote family reunification. (National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice 1994). They are "services for children and families designed to help families (including adoptive and extended families) at risk or in crisis..." (1993 OBRA provisions, P.L. 103-66).
Most families, when properly assisted, can care for their children successfully. Children need to be with their families, and even in the most troubled families, separation is a traumatic event for the child and other family members. Key values that underlie FPS include (1) parents and families as a whole are respected; (2) families have strengths and services should build on those strengths; (3) families can take an active role in identifying needs and developing a service plan; (4) services must be flexible, determined by each family's goals; and (5) families are viewed as part of a community.
The goal of FPS is to enable families to properly care for their children, while maintaining the safety of the child in the home. FPS assists families in coping with problems that interfere with successful parenting, and helps families to find and use resources and supports. FPS is not designed to "fix" everything in the family but to help the family learn the skills necessary to provide a safe and caring environment for the child.
Participation in FPS is voluntary, and includes biological families, kinship families with custodial responsibility, and adoptive families at risk of disruption. Families currently experiencing a crisis that may result in a child's placement outside the home, whose child has been removed from the home, or who recently have been reunified, are typical participants in FPS. Most frequently, families referred for FPS have come to the attention of the formal service system because of a report of child abuse or neglect, or as a result of the parent's request for assistance in parenting. FPS also may be provided to families with delinquent youth and with children at risk of psychiatric hospitalization.
Public child-serving agencies, often through contact with private providers, typically provide FPS. Services are targeted to individual child and family needs, and typically include family counseling, parenting and other skills training, housing assistance, and instructions in family budgeting, stress management, health, nutrition, child development, and behavior management. FPS also may include respite care for caregivers and cash assistance.
Delivery of Services
Within 24 hours of a referral to FPS, a response is made to the family. The services are generally limited to families in crisis, and are typically four to twelve weeks in duration. Workers are available on a flexible schedule, on a 24-hour basis. FPS workers have small caseloads (two to six families per worker or team of workers), enabling them to provide intensive service and be very accessible to the family.
In contrast to conventional services, FPS workers spend up to 20 hours a week with a family. FPS is provided in the family home or in another community setting. This allows the worker to observe family members in their own environment, to understand the issues and dynamics of the family as a whole, and to identify the strengths and resources of the family. Families are more likely to feel at ease in their own home and community, where they can practice new parenting and communication techniques and get on-the-spot coaching and feedback from the worker.
Effectiveness of Family Preservation Services
Families that have received FPS generally stay together. Evaluations of family preservation programs around the country report on average 80 percent of families that have received family preservation services remain together after one year.
Family preservation programs have a strong safety record. FPS never advocates leaving a child in a dangerous situation. FPS employs several strategies that contribute to a strong safety record, including:
Families that have received FPS are doing better. Comprehensive evaluations have found that intensive family preservation program have significantly improved parenting skills and effected positive behavioral changes, such as improved communication, appropriate discipline, and better care of children.
- 24-hour referral and response
- No waiting period before services begin
- Services provided in the home, where caseworkers can monitor danger signals and work with parents to minimize the risk
- 24-hour, 7-day-a-week availability of caseworkers to provide support and protection to family members; and small caseloads
- Giving workers the flexibility to respond to and handle emergencies.
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