Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Interim Report. 4.5.2 FY1998 Case Characteristics of Participating Counties


Aggregate data describing the service in FPS programs are available from state reports. County-specific annual monitoring is presented for FY 1998. The random assignment period in New Jersey, November 1996-February, 1998 overlapped partially with this aggregate data. The data are based on information self-reported by each FPS program as part of their contract obligations and oversight. It provides a snapshot of the caseload of families served during the fiscal year closest to the end of the random assignment period. It includes only those DYFS families served by the program and excludes families "turnbacked" from service. The following table (Table 4-10), lists the number of families served by each county, the total number of children in each family and the number of children identified by the referring DYFS worker as at risk. All programs operated at similar service levels, except for Essex, which served 84 families.



Table 4-10.
Number of families, children served, and children at risk in Family Preservation by County, FY 1998
County No. Families No. Children No. Children at Risk Percentage of Children at Risk(%)
Bergen 58 118 81 69%
Burlington 47 75 75 100%
Camden 51 124 91 73%
Essex 84 228 130 57%
Monmouth 53 172 104 61%
Ocean 53 130 104 80%
Passaic 51 118 67 57%

The ages of children at risk in the seven selected counties are presented in the following Table 4-11. Over 40% of the children at risk in five of the programs were 13-17 years in age. In Passaic County, 75% were in that age range. The state's policy of serving younger children at risk of child abuse and neglect was not being followed during this time period. In Essex County, there is a FPS program for boarder babies which are not included in these data or in our study. Many of the infants at risk in that county would have been referred to its "Boarder Baby" program possibly affecting the number of young children reported in Essex's service.

Table 4-11. 
Age category of children at risk (percentage) by County
County No. Children at Risk Ages 0-5 (%) Ages 6-9 (%) Ages 10-12 (%) Ages 13-17 (%)
Bergen 81 23 16 20 41
Burlington 75 12 17 21 47
Camden 91 21 19 20 40
Essex 130 18 24 14 45
Monmouth 104 28 20 19 33
Ocean 104 31 25 22 22
Passaic 67 6 4 15 75

During FY1998, the emphasis on referring cases with abuse/neglect or risk of abuse/neglect was not apparent in the seven participating counties. According to the Annual Monitoring data as shown in Table 4-12 below, the majority of cases in most counties were referred for reasons related to the behavior or activity of a child. The only exception was Ocean County that reported 51% of cases had abuse/neglect or risk of abuse/neglect as reason for referral. Over a third (36%) of Ocean's cases were referred as reunification cases.

Table 4-12.
Reason for referral (percentage) by County
County Abuse/Neglect (%) Risk of Abuse /Neglecta (%) Child-Relatedb (%) Otherc (%)
Bergen 18 21 57 4
Burlington 14 7 59 12
Camden 15 12 60 13
Essex 4 5 87 5
Monmouth 21 14 54 12
Ocean 25 26 13 36
Passaic 6 4 81 9

a. Risk of abuse and neglect includes cases referred for unknown injury cause.

b. Child-related reasons include runaway, behavior out of control, parent/child relationship, juvenile delinquency, and child is suicidal.

c. "Other" is primarily reunification in Ocean County.

Substance abuse continues to be a key problem in the FPS service of these counties. The data in Table 4-13, reported by the FPS programs, identifies the number of families served in which substance abuse was identified. It was identified as a problem at any point during the intervention and was not necessarily known at the time of referral to FPS. This is an important distinction since New Jersey now specifies that substance abuse by caregiver is grounds for reporting of child neglect. In addition, counties (DYFS and FPS programs) have local discretion on determining whether a family with substance abuse problems would benefit from FPS service. In Bergen County, almost half of the families served had substance abuse problems during FY 1998. In Essex, Monmouth, and Passaic approximately a third (39%, 36%, 32%) of the families were identified with substance abuse problems. In Burlington, Camden, and Passaic Counties, child substance abuse problems were more prevalent than parent/guardian substance abuse problems.

Table 4-13.
Percentage of families with substance abuse problems by County
County Families with Substance Abuse Problems Parent/ Guardian Onlya Child Only Parent/ Guardian and Child Other Member of Household Only
Bergen 46 33 9 2 2
Burlington 24 9 13 2 0
Camden 14 6 8 0 0
Essex 39 25 10 2 2
Monmouth 36 28 2 4 2
Ocean 27 21 2 2 2
Passaic 32 8 14 6 4

a. Households where parent /guardian and another member of the household were identified with substance abuse problems are included in this category.