Program Evaluation and Research


This summary was prepared by National Family Preservation Network.

"New research on Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) released in August, 2000, concludes that IFPS is effective in preventing or delaying out-of-home placements in child/abuse neglect cases and is most effective with the highest-risk families when compared with traditional services provided by the child welfare system.

Dr. Ray Kirk, a leading researcher of IFPS at the University of North Carolina, conducted a retrospective study of more than 1,200 children who had received IFPS services in North Carolina in the past 5 years compared with over 110,000 children who had not received these services. IFPS providers served families at higher risk when compared with the rest of the child welfare system. These factors included higher risk ratings, more prior substantiated reports, and more prior placements.

In order to accurately determine the treatment effects of IFPS services, Dr. Kirk compared the highest-risk IFPS families with the highest risk families not receiving IFPS services. He also constructed a "time to placement" history of one year with 60-day intervals to pinpoint when out-of-home placements occurred. Dr. Kirk found that in comparing IFPS highest-risk families to non-IFPS highest-risk families, the IFPS families showed a lower placement rate and delayed placements over the first six months of case activity.

Over the entire year-long placement history, with risk factors accounted for in both treatment and comparison groups, IFPS outperformed traditional child welfare services in every case by reducing the number of placements or delaying placements. When multiple risk factors were present, IFPS was increasingly effective at preventing placement when compared to the rest of the child welfare system.

The study contradicts some previous research that did not report positive effects from IFPS treatment. Dr. Kirk concluded that research on IFPS must control for risk factors and must account for time as a dynamic variable in relation to out-of-home placements."

For more information or to request a copy of the entire study, please contact Dr. Ray Kirk, Clinical Associate Professor, Jordan Institute for Families, UNC Chapel Hill, TTK Bldg., CB 3550, 301 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, NC 27599. E-mail: