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.
Within this context, there remains considerable confusion about the essential elements of family preservation services and which types of programs fall into this category. 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.
The following resources provide a broad overview of policies addressing family preservation services and program approaches to providing such services to families.
Child Welfare: Family Preservation Policy
Popple & Leighninger (5th ed.) (2011)
In The Policy-Based Profession: An Introduction to Social Welfare Policy Analysis for Social Workers
Discusses factors leading to the development of family preservation initiatives and analyzes the policy from a historical, social, political, and economic perspective, including a list of selected websites for family preservation programs nationwide.
Family Preservation Programs (PDF - 141 KB)
National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (2008)
Provides a list of programs that have been recognized as having some success in family preservation or related areas.
Grandparents in Kinship Care: Help or Hindrance to Family Preservation (PDF - 160 KB)
Journal of Family Strengths, 11(1), 2011
Explores the rise of kinship care and discusses the lack of mechanisms to adequately support kinship caregivers. The article provides recommendations for considering greater compensation for kin caregivers and the adoption of new approaches to care that strengthen a child's kinship network.
Integrating Motivational Interviewing Into Home-Based Child Maltreatment Prevention and Family Preservation Services
Silovsky, Leffingwell, & Hecht
Family Violence Prevention and Health Practice, 1(8), 2009
Addresses potential applications, challenges, and ethical issues related to the implementation of Motivational Interviewing with intensive, home-based child and family preservation services.
Recreating Family: Parents Identify Worker-Client Relationships as Paramount in Family Preservation Programs
Gockel, Russell, & Harris
Child Welfare, 87(6), 2008
Discusses a study that reports on the reflections of 35 parents who were referred to family preservation programs by child protection social workers in order to better understand the active ingredients of effective interventions.