Family Preservation Organisations
Among issues and challenges facing family preservation organizations are uneven implementation and funding, continuing debates about policy philosophy and the increased burden on contracted private agency therapists.
- When states see a change in administration, sometimes new funding is awarded if the incumbent feels there were issues with the previous providers. This creates huge volatility in the process.
- For example, Kansas recently terminated its arrangement with a provider and reduced the catchment area of another. While the motives were to improve the quality of services, it still creates disruption in the system and among the families currently being served. Continuity of care is severely disrupted.
- States distribute funding to family preservation organizations. This can lead to imbalances in the system, as different states are going to have different approaches. This means some family preservation organizations are significantly under-funded compared to other parts of the country.
- For example, Arizona was found to have only spent 1% of its child welfare funds on in-home prevention, while it spent 79% on outside placements. Wisconsin spent 2% on in-home preservation programs, compared to 58% on external placement initiatives.
- A study also found that when there are budget cuts or shortages in funding, the first element to get cut is preservation programs.
- One study found that more money in the US as a whole is spent on investigating families rather than trying to preserve them.
- Before 2016, funding for child welfare programs was cut by an average of 29%. However, even though Congress passed new laws about family preservation, many states delayed implementation that would seen increased funding.
- For example, Ohio has delayed the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act until as late as October of next year (2021). Until then, money is still being directed more towards foster care.
Emergence of Two-Generation Strategies
- There is some optimism about family preservation for the future. The two-generation approach is becoming more popular, where both the parents and children are being supported as a coordinated and cohesive effort.
- For example, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon operate two-generation strategies, providing "technical assistance, peer mentoring, and financial support" to both parts of the family.
- The Aspen Institute Ascend Network's works with organizational partners to help spread the two-generation philosophy. It has reached over 3.8 million people across 46 states since 2014. The approach partners child-parent approach with parent-child approaches into a cohesive package that facilitates opportunities and outcomes for the whole family unit.
Continued Challenge of Philosophy
- A chief challenge of family preservation organization is striking the balance between family preservation and child protection.
- This challenge can have several facets, including preventing out-of-home placements while also adequately addressing safety concerns. Ensuring child well-being while balancing safety and permanency is the most recent policy focus for the US Department for Health & Human Service.
- One professional feels that emotional security gets lost in family preservation assessments, which can lead to damaging conclusions in favor of family preservation. He feels that current CPS tools do not have adequate sensitivity or specificity to assess striking the balance to a sufficient level.
- The issue is still in constant debate in the industry. While the government can issue policy guidance, and states/organizations can take their own interpretations, it is not a challenge that will ever go away. The Family First Prevention Services Act, passed in 2018 attempts to help mitigate some of this debate by providing extra funding to preservation services, however there will always be a philosophical discussion of when it is safer/better to remove the child.
- To highlight this, there have been debates and confusion about policy, scope and even definition of child protection and family preservation since the early 1980s.
Private Agency Therapists
- While burnout is well-known among state social workers, little awareness has been raised as to the challenges private agency workers face working with state systems. These workers provide around 59% of family preservation services, and so understanding them is extremely important.
- Researchers were able to identify 11 different challenges these workers face, including navigating complicated government systems, unrealistic expectations, inadequate support, inadequate supervision and the increasing stress of having to function as both therapist and 'system navigator' for client families.
- This study was only released last year, but the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU's College for Design and Social Inquiry is working to make solid recommendations to agencies to improve the condition of these workers.
- The issue of long-term care, e.g. family caregiving of elderly family members, has been highlighted as an emerging or future challenge for family preservation organizations. With the ever-increasing older population, more older family members are being cared for inside the home.
- As such, family caregivers can be stressed and at risk for their own help. Furthermore, vulnerable people inside the home can be overlooked or marginalized in the system.
- Without adequate programs and funding in place, this 'third generation' of the family unit could become as vulnerable as children in at-risk families. At the moment, family preservation is not seen as a valid approach to elder care, despite the statistics of elder abuse commonly occurring within the home.