Implementing IFPS Nationwide

Part of the excitement of celebrating the 40th Anniversary of IFPS comes from discovering or re-discovering publications that document the history and impact of IFPS.

In this post we review a paper written in 2001 by Frank Farrow, Director of the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Mr. Farrow looked at the first quarter-century of IFPS; the following is a summary of his findings taken from The Shifting Policy Impact of Intensive Family Preservation Services.

In the 1980s, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation funded 10 programs to determine how to keep families in crisis intact. The Homebuilders® IFPS program stood out based on clarity of service approach, quality training, and quality assurance. The Clark Foundation was convinced that the Homebuilders® program could be replicated nationwide.

Peter Forsythe, Director of the Children’s Program at Clark Foundation, developed three strategies to achieve this goal:

  1. Further development of the Homebuilders® practice model
  2. A coalition of national organizations to support IFPS
  3. Support to states that were committed to implementing the model

The most critical implementation occurred at the state level.

  • Michigan was one of the first states to implement IFPS and pioneered the use of IFPS with families involved in substance abuse. (Note: Michigan was also the site of a random assignment control group study demonstrating the effectiveness of IFPS in preventing placement.)
  • Kentucky was the first state to introduce legislation mandating IFPS, with Judge Richard Fitzgerald a key supporter.
  • Iowa’s IFPS program was established statewide with the help of a key legislator, as was Tennessee’s program.
  • Missouri had a public-private partnership for IFPS consisting of the child welfare agency, a children’s advocacy group, and the mental health agency.

Taken together, these states generated a groundswell of professional opinion in favor of IFPS.

Meanwhile, on the national front, Congress had passed legislation in 1980 requiring that states make “reasonable efforts” to maintain children in their own homes before removing them for placement in foster homes or residential care.

However, there was no clear definition or funding to implement this provision.

And so the national organizations that supported IFPS went to work to link reasonable efforts to family preservation. National organizations that supported IFPS included:

  • Child Welfare League of America (CWLA),
  • Children’s Defense Fund (CDF),
  • Mental Health Institute of the University of South Florida,
  • National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), and
  • Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP).

States that had implemented IFPS provided critical testimony and onsite visits. All of these efforts resulted in passage of the Family Preservation and Support amendments to child welfare law in 1993. For the first time, a federal funding stream was available for IFPS that explicitly recognized the concept and practice of family preservation.

Mr. Farrow concludes by saying that family preservation has changed child welfare practice in ways that can never completely disappear. IFPS created a widespread professional belief that intensive interventions can make a difference to families. That belief lives on today!

To read Mr. Farrow’s paper, visit:

Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director, National Family Preservation Network