Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Interim Report. 8.6 Family and Child Functioning-Caretaker Interviews


Family preservation services are intended to result in improved functioning of children and families. This goal is sought both for its own intrinsic value as well as an intermediate objective in the prevention of subsequent maltreatment and placement; parents who are functioning better and better parent-child relationships should result in lower risk of abuse or neglect.

In our interviews with caretakers and caseworkers we asked a number of questions tapping various aspects of functioning. We asked most of these questions in all three interviews with caretakers (at the beginning of service, four to six weeks after service began, and one year after the beginning of service) and in the two interviews with caseworkers (at the beginning of service and four to six weeks later). In the initial interview, we usually asked respondents to answer in terms of circumstances in the last three months. In the post-treatment and follow-up interviews, we asked in terms of "since we last talked to you [at the time of the initial interview or the post-treatment interview]." To indicate the effects of family preservation services, we can compare the experimental and control groups on the responses to these questions in the second and third interviews and on change between interviews. We report on the responses to a number of individual items in our interviews. In addition, we combined the responses to many questions into summated scales.11We examined differences between experimental and control groups in each state in the average levels of these scales at post-treatment and at follow-up and we examined changes over time in these averages using multivariate repeated measures analysis.12 The results of the analyses of the scales are shown in Tables 8-38-4, and 8-5and in Figure 8-4.

We report on the differences between the experimental and control groups as they were initially formed (the "primary analysis"). Results of the secondary analyses (dropping violations and minimal service cases) were usually similar. They are reported in footnotes when they were materially different.

We looked at a large number of differences between groups on functioning variables and as will be seen, some of these comparisons revealed statistically significant differences, usually favoring the experimental group. However, as will also be seen, the differences are not consistent across states or across time.

(11)  Often we used average responses or proportions of positive responses rather than sums of responses to items. This was done in order to have scores for individuals when there were a few missing items on the scales. If an individual had too many missing items (usually 1/3rd or more) the score was declared missing. Rules for the calculation of all scales are given in Appendix J.

(12)  In multivariate repeated measures analysis, three main hypotheses are tested, first, that the scores for the experimental group, averaged over the three points in time are equal to those of the control group, (the "group" hypothesis); second, that the averages of the groups at each point in time are the same (the "time" hypothesis); and third, that there is no interaction between time and group. It is the third hypothesis that is central, indicating whether the groups change in different ways