Child WelfareStates' Progress in Implementing Family Preservation and Support Services Gao ID: HEHS-97-34 February 18, 1997
To help keep families together, Congress passed legislation in 1993 that provided states with $930 million over five years for family preservation and support services. These services typically target families already in crisis whose children would otherwise be removed from home. Forty-four states said that they have launched new programs. For example, some states now offer programs in which counselors are available 24 hours a day to work with families having a history of child abuse. Forty-seven states report improving or expanding existing programs. For example, adding a service like childcare could enhance a family resources center that already provides an array of services, such as parenting classes, afterschool activities, and family counseling. Early results from 10 states suggest some success, such as preventing child removal and continued maltreatment. Although it is too soon to know the overall impact of these programs, federal and state officials report that the extensive community and interagency collaboration required by the law has improved identification of service needs, setting of priorities, and receipt of services by at-risk families otherwise overlooked.
GAO found that: (1) all states reported that they are using federal funds to increase the availability of family preservation and family support services either by creating new programs or expanding existing programs; (2) 44 states said that they introduced new programs; (3) 47 states reported enhancing their existing programs or expanding them to serve more clients; (4) as required by the law, GAO's analysis shows that states appear to be allocating a significant portion of their federal funds to both family preservation and family support services: (5) in the last 2 years, states budgeted 56 percent of their service dollars to family support and 44 percent to family preservation; (6) the somewhat greater emphasis on family support services reflects priorities established through state and community planning efforts; (7) moreover, many states already had family preservation programs in place and decided to bolster family support services; (8) to determine whether this infusion of federal funds improves services for children and families, GAO identified a number of efforts that are underway or planned to assess programs providing FPS services; (9) states plan to track the results of their federally funded services, for example, by measuring the number of clients served and the extent to which their needs are met, improvements in parent-child relationships, the degree that services are coordinated, and indicators of community well-being, such as child abuse rates; (10) although not required to do so, at least 11 states are also planning formal evaluations to determine whether the services actually improve outcomes for families; (11) two federally sponsored evaluations are underway to assess the effectiveness of family preservation and family support services; (12) early results from 10 states indicate some successes, such as preventing child removal and continued maltreatment; and (13) while it is too early to determine the impact of these programs, federal and state officials report that the extensive community and interagency collaboration required by the law has resulted in improved identification of service needs, setting of priorities, and receipt of services by at-risk families otherwise overlooked.