Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Interim Report. Evaluation Design


The design for this evaluation was an experiment in which families were randomly assigned to either a Homebuilders family preservation program (the experimental group) or to other, "regular," services of the child welfare system (the control group). This report concerns programs in Louisville, Kentucky; seven counties in New Jersey; and Memphis, Tennessee. Information was collected through interviews with caseworkers and caretakers to examine caretakers' parenting practices, interaction with children, discipline, social networks, economic functioning, housing, abuse and neglect, psychological functioning, child well-being, and caseworker/caretaker interactions. These interviews were conducted with:

  • The investigating worker, caseworker, and caretaker of each family at the start of services;
  • The caseworker and the caretaker at the conclusion of family preservation services and at a comparable point in time for families in the control group; and
  • Caretakers one year after entry into the experiment.

After each in-person contact with families, experimental and control caseworkers completed a one-page form describing the services provided during the contact. Administrative data provided information on children's placements, reentries, and subsequent abuse and neglect allegations up to 18 months after entry into the experiment. Staff attitudes and characteristics were collected through a self-administered questionnaire. Throughout the project, discussions were held with personnel of the public agency and service provider agency to gather information about agency services, policies, staffing, training, and the context of services.