Site selection was based on a number of criteria, including selecting programs which were based on well-articulated theories, in place long enough to operate in the way expected by program managers, consistently implemented, and with sufficient numbers of families to provide adequate sample sizes. It was also important that programs have a primary focus on a population of children involved in abuse and neglect reports and that key policymakers, managers, and line staff were willing to allow evaluation. Initially, it was proposed that of the six sites to be evaluated, at least two would be placement prevention programs, two broader family preservation programs, and two reunification programs.
Emphasis was placed on selecting well-defined programs and those with characteristics useful for the development of knowledge (e.g., serving clientele with substance abuse problems). It was decided to evaluate three programs that use relatively “pure” versions of the Homebuilders model of service. These include Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville and Lexington,1 Kentucky; and seven counties in New Jersey. The fourth family preservation/placement prevention site, Philadelphia, has a program in which the goal of family preservation services is defined more broadly than placement, compares family preservation services to less intensive in-home services, and has an explicit focus on substance abuse.
Our program review established that there were few reunification programs, and those that existed served small numbers of clients. Most reunification programs were part of family preservation programs and served families after discharge from foster care. We decided to examine the HomeRebuilders reunification program in New York City, by conducting the data collection for the experiment started by the New York State Department of Social Services. We were not able to identify a suitable site for a second experimental evaluation of reunification.
(1) Lexington, Kentucky, remained in the study only a short time. Further details on Lexington are presented in Chapter 3, Kentucky Overview.