Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: The New Jersey Natural Parent Support Program . 1. Introduction and Background Information


The Natural Parent Support Program (NPSP) is a publicly funded reunification program provided statewide in New Jersey through private contractors.(1) The program was brought to our attention by the Assistant Director of the Office of Program Support and Permanency. NPSP delivers intensive reunification services to families. It is the uniqueness of the program's approach that prompted its review. Interviews for this report were conducted in November 2000 with Department of Human Services, Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) personnel and NPSP program staff.

NPSP is considered by the state to be an intermediate intensive family reunification program. It incorporates a holistic approach to meeting the needs of families, distinguishing it from the basic services provided by the DYFS by its holistic and intensive nature. NPSP caseworkers work in the home with a family for 7 to 8 hours each week and have the flexibility to meet the needs of the family with a variety of services. Workers locate counseling and treatment services, social services, and employment and concrete services. Workers also teach and model behavior for parents to improve parenting and home-making skills, provide transportation, and even accompany clients to provide personal support. The program stresses teaching techniques such as helping parents recognize their strengths, providing positive reinforcement, rewarding children's positive behavior, and allowing parents to accomplish things on their own rather than facilitating dependency by doing everything for them.

Background information on state policy and service structure is helpful in understanding how the NPSP fits into the continuum of reunification services in the state. This report first outlines information on the New Jersey child welfare system and key policies in the state affecting child welfare and specifically reunification. Following state information, a detailed description of the NPSP provides specifics on implementation, staffing, services, the relationship NPSP has with coordinating agencies, barriers encountered in delivering NPSP services, program success, and funding. The report ends with some conclusions on why NPSP is unique in the continuum of reunification services provided in New Jersey.