HOMEBUILDERS – Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS)

HOMEBUILDERS® provides intensive, in-home crisis intervention, counseling, and life-skills education for families. Families receive about 40 hours of therapy over 4-6 weeks. The goal of the program is to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children, or allow children to be returned home more quickly, through intensive, on-site intervention, and to teach families new skills to prevent future crises. Families work with their HOMEBUILDERS® therapist to establish goals tailored to the family, and therapists meet with families at times that are convenient for them and at times when problems are likely to occur. Therapists are available to families on a 24/7 basis for crisis intervention and support.

Established in 1974 in Washington State, the HOMEBUILDERS® model has been implemented across the United States and internationally. It is the oldest and best-documented Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) program in the United States.

Population Served

Homebuilders® serves families with children from birth to 17 years old, who have at least one child at imminent risk of out-of-home placement. Families are referred by their caseworkers in the child welfare, juvenile justice, or mental health system.

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 delinquency, while allowing the youths to remain in the community. Staff help clients find the right school setting, attend classes regularly, adhere to curfews, comply with the court, participate in constructive activities with peers, and learn to manage anger and conflict without getting into trouble. Therapists also help parents learn to deal with the stress of raising adolescents.

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 are able to avoid the trauma and stigma of psychiatric hospitalization or residential treatment.


Maria G.* and her three children, Antonia* (age 10), Raquel* (5), and Robert* (3) were referred to Intensive Family Preservation Services (HOMEBUILDERS®) by Children's Protective Service (CPS). Two months before the referral a school nurse made a CPS report because Antonia said that Maria had been hitting her. One hit with a wire brush resulted in approximately 20 to 30 small holes in Antonia's scalp. Police were called and ended up placing all three children in foster care. Maria admitted hitting the children, stating that she "just lost control". A single parent, she supported the family by part-time employment and public assistance. Raising 3 children alone was overwhelming, and financial problems were never ending. "I had kids, but I wasn't a mom," Maria explained.

In order to have the children returned home, and assure their safety, Maria was referred to HOMEBUILDERS®. The first goal of the service was to help Maria to reduce her feelings of anger and frustration that led to the physical and verbal abuse. Maria screamed at her children often, and when she became overwhelmed she struck out physically at them. The therapist listened at length to Maria's difficulties, assessing what led to the abuse. The therapist helped Maria set more realistic expectations for herself and her children and taught her skills to decrease her anger and to stay calm. Maria was also taught "I" messages, as a way to communicate specific positive and corrective feedback without yelling.

Another goal of the intervention was to teach Maria parenting skills. Growing up in an alcoholic family and being placed in foster care and juvenile institutions herself since the age of 13, Maria had few appropriate role models for parenting. Her HOMEBUILDERS® therapist helped her to structure her daily routine by teaching her to prepare for activities and organize her home. This resulted in less anxiety and frustration for Maria and the children. He also taught her how to set limits, and to take the children to the grocery store without it turning into a tantrum filled ordeal. In addition, Maria was taught "active listening", a skill that enhances understanding and relationships. Maria used these listening skills, not only with her children, but also with her parents, with whom she had had a strained relationship. The skills helped her to form new, positive relationships with these family members, and she continues to utilize them today.

"Without HOMEBUILDERS®, we would not be together," Maria disclosed. "Our therapist had a hands-on approach. He walked us through everyday stuff. I broke the cycle of violence in my family. If it worked with my family it could work with others, because we were the worst of the worst".

"The help we have gotten literally saved our family. My son is now home with me and we have a wonderful relationship."

* Client names have been changed to protect their identity.