The IFPS Blog seeks to present a variety of perspectives on Intensive Family Preservation Services. Recently we conducted this interview with Washington State legislator, Roger Freeman.
Representative Roger Freeman is a first-term legislator in Washington State. He is the Vice Chair of the Early Learning and Human Services Committee. Rep. Freeman is an attorney and is manager of the dependency unit of the King County Department of Public Defender.
IFPS Blog: Rep. Freeman, you are a public defender. Could you share some of your experiences? Do you represent families facing removal of their children?
Rep. Freeman: We’re part of a model court system in which attorneys have specialized training and experience in working with dependency cases. I have been involved with child welfare dependency cases for nine years. I represent parents from the investigative stage all the way through to termination of parental rights. Over 80% of the cases are drug related. But the biggest shock to me is that so many of the children are removed due to the family’s poverty. These families may resist intervention, so my job is to mediate between the families and the child welfare workers to connect the families with the help that they need to keep their children.
What I see as the key to helping families is to get them engaged with services within the first 30 days. The families that engage early on have better outcomes, with their children returned to them within 6-12 months. When families do not engage, it can lead to termination of parental rights.
IFPS Blog: How did you learn about Intensive Family Preservation Services and what are your thoughts about these services?
Rep. Freeman: I knew about FPS (a less intensive service), but I realized that some families need more contact, teaching, and hands-on services. That’s when I learned about IFPS and what a vital service it is. The earlier that families are referred to IFPS, the less likely it is that they will go further into the child welfare system. I’m a huge fan of IFPS and would like to obtain more funding for it, especially for use with drug-affected parents before the child is born.
IFPS Blog: As a legislator, what do you look for to determine if a program is effective?
Rep. Freeman: The legislature supports early intervention. We want to fund services that create better outcomes for families such as pre-K programs, substance abuse treatment, and day care in order for parents to maintain employment.
I am especially concerned about parents with disabilities. If parents with disabilities are unable to care for their children on their own, then they should be assisted through kinship care or other arrangements that allow the parents to remain involved in their children’s lives.
IFPS Blog: What do you think are the best ways to help families stay together?
Rep. Freeman: I think the best way is “aggressive engagement.” We need rapid response teams that provide immediate assistance rather than waiting for multiple complaints before providing services. IFPS is an example of a rapid response. We need more services like that in which parents receive fast, competent, and skill-building services in order that they can move to more effective parenting.
Mary Fischer, Associate Director
Institute for Family Development