The goal of Arizona’s initiative Family Builders is to enhance parents’ ability to create safe, stable, and nurturing home environments that promote the safety of all family members and healthy child development. The initiative was implemented first in two urban areas, in January 1998. Other districts were added in 1999; currently it covers four districts out of six. The initiative is a public/private partnership that provides an alternative response system to families with low or potential risk child abuse or neglect reports. (Prior to Family Builders, most of these families were not being served at all.)
When a report comes in to the state, a state employee screens the report, and if it is judged to be low or potential risk, decides which Family Builders contractor the report should go to. The contractor then has 48 hours to contact the family. The family participates voluntarily, and many (as many as two thirds) decline to participate. The initiative uses a strength-based, family-centered approach to reduce the re-occurrences of subsequent child abuse and neglect reports.
The state has contracts with eight community providers to receive referrals, assess families, and provide the services identified in the service plans. Services that contractors must have available include family assessment, housing search and relocation, emergency services, intensive family preservation services, case management, parenting skills, parent aide services, child day care, transportation, respite services, shelter services, and supportive intervention/guidance counseling. The state monitors the contracts to ensure that services are provided as specified in the treatment plan. Contractors are paid a case rate, and bill the state at three points: referral, assessment, and completion of service plan.
In the first 18 months of operation, a total of 8,335 families were referred to Family Builders contractors. Of those families, 5,600 families declined services, 2,800 families received an assessment, and 2,300 families received services and completed a service plan. An evaluation conducted by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General (2000) found that families participating in the program were just as likely to have a new child maltreatment report after entering the program as two similar groups of families not participating in the program. However, caseworker assessments indicated that the risk of child maltreatment among participants decreased slightly.