Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume One. 3.6 Summary


Kentucky has offered family preservation services since 1985, when it served as one of the original pilot projects funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. The state funded three sites in 1989 and by 1996 family preservation programs were available in all 120 Kentucky counties. Over the years state policy and procedures have remained consistent, based on the Homebuilders model. The program has remained focused on identifying children at imminent risk of foster care placement and preventing that placement from occurring. Although policy has been consistent, caseworkers acknowledged that their definition of imminent risk was varied. Often caseworkers perceived family preservation services as an alternative service, which might aid in preventing future placement, but not necessarily targeting children at imminent risk of placement.

State and local administrators recognized the targeting problem and worked with the study staff to implement more stringent procedures. A screening protocol was used by the local screener to review all cases referred for FPP. Also, a procedure was implemented to review all cases in which a worker was filing a court petition for foster care placement or for the court's involvement in protecting the safety of the child.

In Louisville, the main study site, the family preservation program was well regarded by both caseworkers and the courts. There were some suggestions for improvement in communication between family preservation therapists and caseworkers. Some caseworkers believed that therapists needed more flexibility when working with families, while some therapists felt that caseworkers needed to stay more involved with families once they were referred for family preservation services. A major concern of both the public and private agencies was services for families in which drug abuse was a problem. While all staff agreed that this was a prevalent problem, there was not consensus as to whether FPP was the appropriate resource to address the issue. Overall, the courts, therapists, and caseworkers believed that family preservation services were a needed resource for families.

Kentucky random assignment for the evaluation was conducted from May 1996 through February 1998. The study mainly took place in Jefferson County (Louisville), with Fayette County (Lexington) participating for eight months. A net sample of 349 cases was assigned, 317 cases from Louisville and 32 cases from Lexington. Interviews with caretakers and caseworkers were conducted. Administrative data were also collected. The analyses of these interview and administrative data are presented in Volume Two.

While Kentucky staff were frustrated with study procedures and could not wait for random assignment to end, all levels of staff -- administrators, screeners, supervisors, caseworkers, and therapists put forth a tremendous effort and helped to maintain study integrity.


22. At study inception the Department was known as the Department of Social Services (DSS).

23. Kentucky Family Preservation Act, 1990.

24. Department for Social Services Program Manual, Family Preservation Section

25. The Kentucky Impact program works to prevent psychiatric placement of children.

26. At the beginning of the study, the Department was DSS.

27. The ongoing case total includes adolescent service units.

28. Fiscal years go from July to June.

29. We considered changing the study procedure, but local management wanted workers to follow the policy as it was written. It was believed that by shortcutting the policy, workers were not necessarily using family preservation for imminent risk cases. Study procedures did allow workers to call for an assignment from a family's home, but they never used this procedure.

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