New Jersey has provided FPS services since 1987 using the Homebuilders Model. A Project Director was hired in September 1986 and program design and contracting enabled four programs to begin operations in June 1987. These initial four programs were in Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, and Hudson Counties. By the end of the following year, four additional programs were initiated. FPS services were available in 14 of its 21 counties by 1990. Following the passage of the federal legislation, New Jersey passed a Family Preservation Act in 1993.
The new legislation resulted in the extension of FPS programs to all 21 counties by October 1995. In addition, the bill established the requirement for a statewide coordinating unit, the Family Preservation Technical Support Unit, TSU, to implement the FPS philosophy consistently statewide and to monitor FPS contracts for service. The bill also required the development of a manual of standards for all districts and monitoring by the state legislature including a yearly report. The report must include, at a minimum, the number of families served; the number of children placed in foster care, group homes, and residential settings; the average cost of providing services to a family; the number of children who remain with their families for one year after receiving services; and recommendations for improving the delivery of FPS services in the state.
The state used Title IV-A emergency assistance funds (EAF) to support the expansion of FPS to all 21 counties in 1995. The annual budget for FY1995, prior to the use of EAF was $3.4 million. Current administrators report that the recent block granting of IV-A funds has not affected the funding of FPS.
Description of FPS Model. DYFS chose to utilize the Homebuilders model for family preservation services, considered “a gatekeeper” to out-of-home care in the last community-based effort to prevent out-of-home placement for a child. It was initially established to reduce the number of congregate and institutional placements of adolescents in the state. It is now described as playing an important role in the continuum of care available within the state's children's services.
Caseload size, intensity and duration, and accessibility of the family preservation service are defined in state legislation. These requirements are summarized as follows:
- Each worker carries a maximum caseload of 2 families at a time. He or she is allowed to add a third family when one of the two cases enters the last week of service. The worker may serve a total of 18 families within a 12 month period;2
- An eligible family shall receive an initial visit within 24 hours of the referral to family preservation;
- The worker shall be available to provide services to the family for 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
- The program shall provide services to a family for four to eight weeks as appropriate; and
- The worker shall provide for no less than five hours of direct service each week.
The state standards for FPS workers stress flexibility of schedule. As to the intensity of service, there is a five-hour per week minimum for contact with families. This is interpreted in the standards as an average of ten face-to-face hours per week with a minimum of three face-to-face contacts per week. More intense services are provided during the initial weeks and in cases with extensive safety issues or other severe needs. Workers are required to keep a phone beeper active or maintain a backup beeper for another worker at all times.
Each program is budgeted to provide limited financial assistance to families. Since the inception of the program in 1987, an average of $75 per family has been budgeted. The money is available to help families with concrete needs such as unpaid utility bills or household appliances or to be used as a token reinforcement to facilitate progress in goal achievement. FPS programs also can apply for Protective Services Emergency Funds (PRS) through the referring DYFS office. This additional funding is available to ameliorate a situation of abuse and neglect where there is an immediate threat to the child's well being or inability of the parent to continue caring for the child. Allowable expenditures include household equipment, food, and payment for shelter.
Each FPS program is required to establish a county based FPS Advisory Council. The Advisory Council provides input to the FPS program and DYFS from the local perspective. The council is chaired by the FPS director and co-chaired by the DYFS worker responsible for screening cases to the FPS program in each county (DYFS screener). The body includes at least one representative from each of the referring agencies in the county as well as key agencies involved in follow-up services for families. Issues for discussion include eligibility criteria, case management, follow-up service, case closure, defining imminent risk, and how to use the program for substance abusing parents. The councils have been most successful in counties where referrals come from many sources, but are inactive in counties that focus only on DYFS cases (e.g., Bergen, Ocean).
2 In FY '2000, the contract changed to 14 families.