Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 9.1.1 Placement

09/01/2002

We are unable to conclude that the family preservation programs in these states achieve the objective of reducing placement of children in foster care. (113) A summary of various analyses of placement rates at various points in time following random assignment is shown in Table 9-1. In three of the sites (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Philadelphia) there were no significant differences in placement rates over time for the samples as they were originally randomly assigned (the "primary" analysis). In New Jersey, placement rates were significantly higher in the experimental group. Since some of the families in the control group were actually provided family preservation services ("violations") and some of the families in the experimental group did not receive services or received only minimal services ("minimal service" cases), we also conducted analyses in which we dropped those cases ("secondary" analyses). Results of the secondary analyses were quite similar to the primary analyses.

It was thought that the samples in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee included families that did not fit the conception of cases best suited for the program model, that is, cases in which there is an imminent risk of placement. (114) Hence, we attempted to identify subgroups that might better fit criteria for referral. This selection was based on the idea that the service is most useful for families in crisis. Hence, we focused on cases referred in the course of an investigation of abuse or neglect and cases with recent substantiated allegations of maltreatment, on the grounds that these groups of cases might reflect families in crisis. These "refined groups" analyses also failed to show differences between the experimental and control groups on placement rates over time.

In Kentucky and Tennessee, we obtained data from case records and caseworkers on placements with relatives that were not recorded in the administrative data. Adding those data to our analyses, there were again no differences between experimental groups. Although not statistically significant, some of the differences between groups appear to be fairly substantial, particularly at the one-year point. However, there is no consistent pattern to these differences, sometimes the experimental group percentage is higher, sometimes it is the other way around.

Table 9-1
Summary of Placement Data, Survival Analyses Families Experiencing Placement of At Least One Child Within Specified Periods of Time
Kentucky 1 month 6 months 12 months 18 months
  E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
Primary 6 5 18 18 25 24 27 27
Secondary 4 4 12 18 20 23 24 25
Refined analyses
Investigative 8 5 15 14 26 15 28 20
Recent substant. 6 2 20 11 29 13 32 18
Petition cases 6 9 16 14 22 29 25 32
New Jersey 1 month 6 months 12 months 18 months
  E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
Primary 5 6 19 17 29 22 35 26
Secondary 3 6 17 17 27 23 34 27
Refined analyses
Investigative 3 5 16 12 25 15 32 19
Recent substant. 8 5 19 12 25 14 33 21
Tennessee 1 month 6 months 12 months
  E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
Administrative data, primary analysis 11 11 22 19 23 19
Administrative data, secondary analysis 7 12 18 19 19 19
Including relatives, primary 11 11 26 21 28 23
Including relatives, secondary 7 12 20 19 23 21
Refined analyses
Recent investigation, CORS 7 12 15 15 17 15
Recent investigation, includes Relative 7 12 18 18 22 21
Philadelphia 1 month 6 months 12 months 18 months
  E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
E
%
C
%
Primary 1 1 10 12 18 15 24 20
Secondary 1 1 9 13 15 16 21 19
Note: C = Control Group, E = Experimental Group

As indicated above, the target group for the services in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee was families in which at least one child was "in imminent risk of placement." We found that, by and large, the families served were not in that target group. This is shown by the placement rate within a short period of time in the control group, indicating the placement experience in the absence of family preservation services. In all three states, the placement rate in the control group within one month (a liberal definition of "imminent") was quite low. It would, therefore, have been virtually impossible for the programs to be effective in preventing imminent placement, since very few families would have experienced placement within a month without family preservation services. (115) It should be noted, however, that the rates of eventual placement in the control group were higher, about one-fifth to one-fourth within one year. Hence, it would have been possible for family preservation to have shown effects on placement over time, but those effects were not observed.

There was one group that it seemed might represent better targeting, the "petition" cases in Kentucky. Prior to random assignment, workers submitted petitions to the court for placement or some other court ordered intervention on 67 families. It might be supposed that this group would be more likely to have children placed. Although more of the control group families in this group experienced the placement of a child within one month than other subgroups in Kentucky, that proportion was still quite low (10%), suggesting that focusing on groups such as this (cases with court involvement) would not resolve the targeting problem. (116)

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