Evidence-based Intensive Family Preservation Services

HOMEBUILDERS® is an evidence-based, in-home, intensive family therapy program, designed to prevent unnecessary out-of-home placement (such as foster care, group care, psychiatric hospitals, or correctional institutions). Established in 1974 in Washington State by the Institute for Family Development, the HOMEBUILDERS® model has been implemented across the United States and internationally.

Families served by HOMEBUILDERS® are typically experiencing multiple problems, some of which are chronic in nature. The program is not designed to help families resolve all of their problems. Rather, it is designed to keep children safe while helping the family reach a level of functioning at which it is possible for their children to remain safely at home.

Families receive intensive, time-limited services. Therapists typically serve two families at a time, are available to clients twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and work with families in their homes and natural environment for four to six weeks. Therapists provide a range of research-based interventions to increase life skills and improve family functioning. Therapists also help families enhance their social support network and access basic needs.


The underlying philosophy of HOMEBUILDERS® is that it is best to raise children in their own family. Even when necessary due to safety concerns, placement is traumatic for children, and does not teach families how to keep their children safe in the future. In addition to this basic philosophy, a set of clearly articulated values and beliefs guide how interventions are structured. Primary among these are the beliefs that all people can change and that many problems are the result of skill deficits. The program minimizes barriers to service, uses specific strategies to enhance family member motivation and participation in treatment, and teaches skills designed to improve family functioning and change the environment to diminish stress

Population Served

HOMEBUILDERS® serves families with children from birth to 18 years old, who have one or more children at imminent risk of placement, or have children in placement who cannot be reunified without intensive services. The presenting problems are often varied and complex, including child abuse and/or neglect, family conflict, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, child or parental developmental disabilities and/or mental health problems, and substance abuse. Families are typically referred to services by a state social worker.

Families and Youth Referred

(Eligible Referrals Only)

Washington State HOMEBUILDERS® 01/01/2023 to 12/31/2023
*Number of families includes duplicates when youth in family are referred for different services.

Child Welfare

HOMEBUILDERS® therapists work with high-risk families involved with the child protective services system. The goal of the program is to remove the risk of harm to the child instead of removing the child. The program gives families the chance to learn new behaviors and helps them make better choices for their children. Child safety is ensured through small caseloads, program intensity, and 24-hour a day service availability.

Juvenile Justice

HOMEBUILDERS® also works with youth and their families to correct problems that contribute to court involvement, while allowing the youths to remain in the community. Therapists teach skills and support clients to increase school attendance, participation in constructive activities, and cooperation and compliance within the family and with the court. Therapists also may teach skills for dealing with anger, stress, and conflict without getting into trouble.

Mental Health

Like child welfare, children's mental health has been criticized for an over-reliance on out-of-home placement, and the failure to provide community-based crisis intervention services that work for the whole family. The strategic use of HOMEBUILDERS® provides crisis intervention and skill building, involves the family in the child's treatment, and broadens the continuum of care so that children can avoid the trauma and stigma of psychiatric hospitalization or residential treatment.


Since the program's start in 1974, HOMEBUILDERS® has had a strong tradition of rigorous data collection and data-driven program evaluation. The HOMEBUILDERS® program has been evaluated by many groups over the years, including the American Criminal Justice Institute, the National Institute for Mental Health, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, the Washington State Legislature, the Oregon Council on Crime and Delinquency, and a National Science Foundation Committee in conjunction with the Boys Town Centers for Youth Development. The former Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) designated HOMEBUILDERS® as a model program for preventing juvenile delinquency. HOMEBUILDERS® was listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidenced Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) for treating mental health and substance use disorders until the Trump Administration ceased operation of the NREPP in 2017.

HOMEBUILDERS® is listed in the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare as one of only five programs identified as being effective in reunifying families. The U.S. Surgeon General has recognized HOMEBUILDERS® as a model family strengthening program.

In 2020, HOMEBUILDERS® was designated as a “well-supported program” in the FFPSA (Families First Prevention Services Act) Clearinghouse, which identifies research-based programs that are eligible for federal FFFSA funding. “Well-supported” is the highest rating in their rating system.


Success Rate

Placement Prevention, Reunification, or Stabilization Achieved at Service Closure
Sample info: N=27798 youth referred for services, 7/1/2017 – 2/29/2024, all teams, eligible interventions only; CW/MH/JJ

Success 6-months After Closure

Youth avoided placement 6-months after services ended
Sample info: N=3829 youth, 7/1/2017 – 2/29/2024, all teams, eligible interventions only; CW only

Child Safety Improved

Interventions with improvement in at least 1 NCFAS domain rated below baseline at intake that was essential to improve and related to safety. N=9043 Total interventions
Sample info: 7/1/2017 – 2/29/2024, all teams, eligible interventions only

Improved Family Functioning

Interventions with improvement in at least 1 NCFAS domain rated below baseline at intake and essential to improve.
Sample info: N=9714 interventions, 7/1/2017 – 2/29/2024, all teams, eligible interventions only

Goal Achievement

Interventions with improvement on at least 1 goal
Sample info: N=10473 completed interventions; 7/1/2017 – 2/29/2024, all teams, eligible interventions only

Client and Referent Satisfaction

Client Feedback

Average Rating Overall Client Satisfaction. A total of 8772 surveys were returned.

Referent Feedback

Average Rating Overall Satisfaction with Working Relationship with Practitioner. A total of 4030 surveys were returned.

Training and Site Development

The Institute for Family Development provides comprehensive consultation, staff training and development, and ongoing quality assurance for sites that are replicating the HOMEBUILDERS®. Implementation of HOMEBUILDERS® requires collaboration between IFD and many stakeholders, including service providers, funders, referents, and state and local governments. The program has clearly articulated standards and fidelity measures that dictate the structure and implementation of the program, including small therapist: supervisor ratio, 24-7 availability, comprehensive assessment, and use of research-based strategies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. If you are interested in delivering HOMEBUILDERS® in your area, please contact us.

Homebuilders® Sites