Michigan Families First Effectiveness Study

Principal Investigators: Dr. Betty Blythe, Boston College
Dr. Srinika Jayaratne, Ph.D., University of Michigan

 

IMPETUS FOR STUDY

 

  1. Evaluate effectiveness of Families First Program
  2. To address concerns in field about some of the confusion surrounding family preservation research.

METHODOLOGY

  1. Randomized control group design.
  2. Only families at imminent risk of having children removed were considered.
  3. Families accepted only after a judge or referee determined children should be removed.
  4. Family randomly assigned if case met usual eligibility and safety criteria.
  5. Study conducted through Wayne County Juvenile Court.

STUDY DESIGN

The Michigan Families First Effectiveness Study was designed to address the following three research questions:

  1. Do children who receive family preservation services have fewer days in out-of-home placement than children who receive foster care services?
  2. Do children who receive family preservation services have fewer subsequent abuse and neglect reports, as compared to children who receive foster care services?
  3. Do children who receive family preservation services fare better on indicators of child well-being, as compared to children who receive foster care services?

Comparison of Families First and Foster Care Services

Families First Foster Care
52 (79%) of 66 cases were contacted by workers within 24 hours of referral On average, 22 days passed until workers made initial contact with family
100% of the workers reported being available 24 hours a day 40$ of workers reported being available 24 hours a day
Two months after referral, no cases remained open. The average length of the intervention was 28 days Two months after referral, 88% of the cases remained open
Workers reported spending an average of 41 hours and 17 minutes in face-to-face contact with families over the time the case was open Workers reported spending an average of 4 hours in face-to-face contact with families over the first 6 weeks of services
During the week, all workers reported face-to-face contact after hours with families for an average of 9 hours and 47 minutes During the week, only 15 workers reported face-to-face contact after hours with families for an average of 2 hours and 6 minutes
On the weekends, 51 (77%) of the workers reported having face-to-face contact with families for an average of 4 hours and 57 minutes On the weekends, only 1 worker reported face-to-face contact with a family which lasted 80 minutes
51 workers (78%) spent an average of $345 in flexible funds, mostly on items such as rent, furniture, and utilities. Only 3 (7%) workers reported using any funds on their families, and did not spend more than $60

OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENT

A major goal of family preservation programs is to prevent the unnecessary placement of children in out-of-home care. Clearly, the Families First program met this goal with the cases in this study.

  • At the 6-month follow-up, among the Families First cases:
    • 88% of the children were living at home
    • 6% of the children were living with relatives
    • 6% of the children were in foster care
  • At the 6-month follow-up, among the foster care cases:
    • 66% of the children were living in foster care
    • 17% of the children were living with relatives
    • 17% of the children were living at home
  • At the 12-month follow-up, among the Families First case:
    • 93% of the children were living at home
    • 7% of the children were living in foster care or a treatment center
  • At the 12-month follow-up, among the foster care cases:
    • 43% of the children were living at home
    • 37% of the children were living in foster care or a group home
    • 20% of the children were living with relatives

Two complete summaries are available upon request:

  1. Treatment Integrity in Families First: Preliminary Findings, 1998 (Blythe, Jayaratne)
  2. Michigan Families First Effectiveness Study: A Summary of Findings, 1999 (Blythe, Jayaratne)