Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume One. 6.8.1 Random Assignment

12/01/2002

Random assignment of Philadelphia cases to study groups began in March 1997. When the study began, the hope was to enroll 500 cases into the study within a one-year period. Referrals were slow during the summer of 1997, but picked up in the wake of renewed attempts to remind intake workers that FPS was an option in many cases. However, despite repeated efforts to increase the referral rates for the study, overall, rates were considerably slower than expected. The enrollment period was left open for 26 months.

A total of 362 cases were randomly assigned. Of these, 9 were determined to be inappropriate referrals and were removed from the study. (71) Table 6-5 shows the distribution of cases by experimental group.

Table 6-5
Assignment of Cases
  Control Experimental Total
Randomly Assigned 149 213 362
Inappropriate Referrals 5 4 9
Net Study Cases 144 209 353

The basic analysis of differences between experimental and control groups concerned those cases labeled "net study cases." Cases that were deemed to require family preservation should have been designated as exceptions. However, in a few cases the group assignment was violated, that is, the group to which a family was assigned was switched. We identified six violations throughout the study. All six cases were switched from the control group to the experimental group. No violation cases switched from the experimental to the control group.

Some cases in the experimental group were provided minimal services because of refusal by the family to participate, failure of the family to comply with initial expectations of the program, or because the provider agency turned the case back. Turnbacks occurred when family preservation services workers were unable to contact the family or the family did not meet the criteria for service (in a few such cases, children were not considered to be at risk). These cases received varying amounts of service, ranging from none to some. There were 71 of these minimal service cases in Philadelphia, 4 in the control group and 67 in the experimental group. Of the 67 experimental group cases, 10 (15%) received at least one family preservation contact. Only 2 of these 10 families received more than five contacts. The breakdown of violations and "minimal service" cases is shown in Table 6-6.

Table 6-6
Violations and Minimal Service Cases
  Control Experimental Total
Net study cases 144 209 353
Violations 5 -- 5
Minimal service 4 67 71

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