The Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Services is intended to estimate the impact of family preservation and reunification services. The design of the evaluation was guided by the following objectives:
- To identify and describe the range of existing placement prevention, family preservation, and reunification programs;
- To determine the extent to which family preservation and reunification programs are effective in safely reducing unnecessary foster care placement;
- To determine the extent to which family preservation programs are effective in meeting the basic needs of children and in promoting improved family functioning;
- To explore the extent to which family preservation/reunification programs have varying degrees of success with different target populations;
- To determine the extent to which program variables, child welfare system variables, and other factors in the service delivery environment affect the success of family preservation and reunification programs;
- To identify the effects of each family preservation/reunification program on its related child welfare system; and
- To compare the costs of family preservation/reunification services to those of control groups.
The evaluation was conducted through randomized experiments in four family preservation sites: Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania and the evaluation of an earlier implemented reunification program in New York City. The classic experimental design of this study is the best way to determine causal connections between interventions and outcomes. The control group received the "regular services" of the child welfare system; it was not a no-treatment control group. We studied the effects of the experimental services relative to ordinary services, i.e., services that would have been provided in the absence of family preservation services.