The use of a family-centered approach has been widely used to assist families where children (adolescents) are at risk or have had instances of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. However, some researchers argue that the method is controversial and, hence, each program based on this approach has to be evaluated. This paper focuses on the research aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the Family-Centered Services Program. The paper includes a brief literature review on the matter and a brief description of the research methods that will be used to answer the research questions.
The use of family-centered approaches in helping people to safely parent their children and create a favorable atmosphere in the family is quite common. Nonetheless, some researchers see this paradigm as controversial, but they still agree that it can have numerous benefits when applied properly (O’Reilly, Wilkes, Luck & Jackson, 2010). It has been acknowledged that each program should address the needs of the family and counselors should consider the peculiarities of the program’s participants. It can be difficult to develop a paradigm that can be applied in many settings, and every method should be thoroughly researched.
The program in question, the Family-Centered Services (FCS), is an intensive voluntary in-home counseling service aimed at addressing the needs of at-risk children and adolescents and their families that have had a history of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. The core principles of the program are family preservation, family-centered interventions, strengths perspective, honesty, treating families as systems, and community partnerships.
The major goals of the program include safe maintenance of children in their families, ensuring children’s safety, enhancing the ability of parents to create a favorable atmosphere for proper development of their children, assisting families to address their issues and crises, avoiding children’s out-of-home placement if possible.
The services within the FCS usually last nine weeks but this term can be extended if necessary but it will not exceed 90 days. Participation in the program is voluntary and, at least one of the parents should agree to participate. The services include consultations in the office (working hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m) and in-home counseling that is provided during the most suitable hours for the family. There is also 24/7 support in emergency cases. During the first week, the counselor will collect the necessary data and come up with the intervention plan and will communicate it to the family. Treating crises and providing counseling can start during this period if necessary.
Review of the Literature
As has been mentioned above, the family-centered approach is seen as one of the most effective paradigms when treating families with high risk or history of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Espe-Sherwindt (2008) states that the approach involves three major components. These are the stress on the family’s strengths, not weaknesses, facilitating the empowerment of parents through promoting control over the necessary resources and development of the efficient relationship between parents and counselors.
Kemp, Burke, Allen-Eckard, Becker, and Ackroyd (2014) stress that this approach enables families to identify their actual needs and enhance parents’ capabilities in the creation of the necessary atmosphere in the family. The researchers note that this paradigm is associated with multidimensional and cross-systems services that effectively help families to define issues and their strengths. This approach enables counselors to take into account the most appropriate intervention.
Hirschy and Wilkinson (2009) argue that it is crucial to take into account all the characteristic features of families (including the size of the family, its ethnic structure, socio-economic status, community, and so on). Pecora, Whittaker, Maluccio, and Barth (2012) also state that an ecological perspective is essential and it is necessary to facilitate parents’ empowerment and their ability to integrate into society and develop the necessary atmosphere within their family.
At the same time, there is an extensive bulk of research on the application of the approach in specific settings. Thus, Dempsey and Keen (2008) focus on families with children with disabilities. Pine and Drachman (2005) concentrate on the needs of immigrant families. Admittedly, these families often face additional challenges, and the peculiarities of these people and their statuses should be considered. It is also important to pay additional attention to low-income families, families where people pertain to different ethnic groups, adopting families, and so on.
To evaluate the program in question, it is necessary to focus on particular outcomes. The qualitative research method will be employed. The quality of parenting and social ties in the community will be the focus of the present research. The quality of parenting will be assessed in terms of the following components care, hygiene, instruction, nutrition, discipline, protection, and children’s perception of the changes if any. As far as the community ties, the family members’ attitude towards their neighbors and members of the community, instances of their interaction, the way neighbors and community members see the family.
The present research will be based on the posttest design that will enable the researcher to assess the criteria mentioned above. It will enable the researcher to learn whether the program has any impact on participants. This method will help identify the particular outcomes of the program and the degree of its effectiveness. Certain recommendations on increasing the effectiveness of the program can be provided based on the analysis implemented.
The participants of the research will be people who have an ongoing case with the DCF or the case with CNSWF. The participants will be divided into two groups, those who have completed the program in question and those who are not a part of the program due to various reasons (for example, they refused to participate, they are not eligible, they did not know about the program). Those who started the program but withdrew from it will not take part in the present research as it is important to identify the effectiveness of the program and partial use of services cannot be regarded sufficient for this purpose. Low-income families will take part in the research.
To obtain valid data, it is necessary to implement research involving at least 100 families (50 families participating in the FCS and 50 families that are not a part of the program). The data collection will be based on the analysis questionnaires completed by the stakeholders. The stakeholders include parent(s), child(ren), close relatives who participate in the program (take part in the intervention), some neighbors or community members. The questionnaires will include questions addressing the components of the effective parenting mentioned above. The questionnaires will be almost identical for both groups, but the participants who have received the services as a part of the program will also answer some questions concerning their attitude towards the program.
The collection of data will be implemented within two months by the researcher. All the necessary confirmation papers and consent forms will be received. The questionnaires will be provided to the members of the program during the post-program meetings. The participants of the research will be chosen randomly. The lists of the DCF, CNSWF, and the program will be used for this purpose. To eliminate any bias, the dates when people were assigned to the program and the dates when particular cases were started will be the choice criteria.
The questionnaires will be provided to the participants who do not take part in the program during their meetings with representatives of the DCF or CNSWF. Other stakeholders involved (who will not take part in any meetings) will receive their questionnaires via emails. Completion of the questionnaires will take approximately 30-40 minutes, as there will be mainly scaled questions.
On balance, it is possible to note that the research in question will enable the researcher to evaluate the program effectiveness as the quality of parenting and inclusion into the community of those who participate in the program and those who do not will be considered. Analysis of questionnaires is effective as it is vital to understand the way stakeholders see the situation. At that, standardized data collection processes will be used, and any meaningful bias will be eliminated, as the participants will be chosen randomly. The number of participants is quite significant, and these people will be representatives of a specific social group. Hence, it is possible to note that the data will be reliable and valid.
Dempsey, I., & Keen, D. (2008). A review of processes and outcomes in family-centered services for children with a disability. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 28(1), 42-52.
Espe-Sherwindt, M. (2008). Family-centered practice: Collaboration, competency and evidence. Support for Learning, 23(3), 137-143.
Hirschy, S., & Wilkinson, E. (2009). Protecting our children: Understanding and preventing abuse and neglect in early childhood. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Kemp, S.P., Burke, T.K., Allen-Eckard, K., Becker, M.F., & Ackroyd, A. (2014). Child and adolescent well-being. In G.P. Mallon & P. McCartt Hess (Eds.), Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies & programs (pp. 51-70). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
O’Reilly, R., Wilkes, L., Luck, L., Jackson, D. (2010). The efficacy of family support and family preservation services on reducing child abuse and neglect: What the literature reveals. Journal of Child Health Care, 14(1), 82-94.
Pecora, P.J., Whittaker, J.K., Maluccio, A.N., Barth, R.P. (2012). The child welfare challenge: Policy, practice, and research. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Aldine Transaction.
Pine, B.A., & Drachman, D. (2005). Effective child welfare practice with immigrant and refugee children and their families. Child Welfare, LXXXIV(5), 537-562.