Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Interim Report. 4.1 Introduction


The New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) is a state administered child welfare system with four regions, 21 counties, and a total of 35 field offices. There is a statewide family preservation program which during the study time frames was using the Homebuilders model,1 with the service provided by contract with not-for-profit agencies in each county. A state office coordinator is responsible for developing uniform selection criteria, training, contracting procedures, and oversight of the contracts for family preservation service (FPS). While all FPS workers are trained using a consistent program model, the county DYFS offices maintain some autonomy in determining how the program is used. Family preservation was originally funded in New Jersey to serve adolescents and prevent placement in residential care. A shift in state policy to change the emphasis to serving families with younger children was made just prior to the implementation of the evaluation.

The sources of material for this section are reports and documents produced by the state and interviews with personnel at DYFS and FPS programs. The comments from staff offer insight into individual practice in the counties or offices in which they work. This helps provide an understanding of the context in which services are provided. However, these observations only reflect the perceptions of the individuals we interviewed.

A summary of how New Jersey compares to national child indicators is reflected in Table 4-1. Data has been abstracted from the Kids Count Data Book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. New Jersey has 16 percent of children covered by Medicaid or other public-sector health insurance compared to 25 percent of all children in the nation. With respect to most indicators, New Jersey's children and families are similar to the national average. As described in Section 3.2, the Casey Foundation has developed a family risk index. Using the Casey risk calculation, in New Jersey, 11 percent of the children are consider at risk as compared to 14 percent of children in the nation.

Table 4-1.
Indicators of child health, education and welfare in New Jersey as compared to nation
  New Jersey Nation
Percent low birth weight babies 7.7% 7.4%
Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) 6.9 7.3
Percent of 2 year olds immunized (1994) 78.0% 78.0%
Percent of children without health insurance 14.0% 14.0%
Percent of children covered by Medicaid or other public-sector health insurance (1996) 16.0% 25.0%
Child death rate (deaths per 100,000 ages 1-14) (1996) 22 26
Teen violent death rates (deaths per 100,000 ages 15-19) 36 62
Teen birth rate (Birth per 1,000 15-17 females) 37 34
Percent teens who are high school dropouts 6.0% 10.0%
Percent of 4th grade student scoring below basic reading level (1998) N/A 39.0%
Percent of 8th grade students scoring below basic math reading level (1998) N/A 28.0%
Median income of families with children in 1996 $54,200 $39,700
Percent of children in poverty in 1996 14% 20%
Percent of children in extreme poverty 7% 9%
Percent of children living with parents who do not have full time year-round employment 26% 30%
Percent of families with children headed by a single parent 22% 27%

Source: Kids Count Data Book, Published by Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1999.

1 DYFS discontinued the contract for HomeBuilders training in March 1998. The new model is called New Jersey FPS.