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

Intensive Family Preservation Service and Intensive Family Reunification Services

Program Characteristics
HOMEBUILDERS® provides intensive, in-home crisis intervention, counseling, and life-skills education for families who have children at imminent risk of placement in state-funded care. It is the oldest and best-documented Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) program in the United States. Our goal is to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children through intensive, on-site intervention, and to teach families new problem-solving skills to prevent future crises.

The HOMEBUILDERS® program accepts only families referred by the state, in which one or more children are in imminent danger of being placed in foster, group, or institutional care. HOMEBUILDERS® is also used for families whose children are being returned from out-of-home care, and for difficult post-adoption situations.

Population Served

Intensive Family Preservation Service and Intensive Family Reunification Service are for families with children from birth to 17 years old, who meet the eligibility criteria described below.

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 a difficult adolescent.

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 IFPS 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.

Outcome Data

Since 1974, HOMEBUILDERS® has provided services to more than 15,000 families. The most recent data show that 6 months after termination of services, 86% of children have avoided placement in state-funded foster care, group care or psychiatric institutions, and remained safely in their homes. Pre-post measures within the family show a substantial reduction in risk across a variety of factors.

Click here to read more about evaluation of the HOMEBUILDERS program

Quality Enhancement System
The Homebuilders quality enhancement system, known as QUEST, is designed to assure quality through the development and continual improvement of the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain model fidelity and service outcomes. QUEST activities focus on providing training and creating an internal management system of on-going evaluation and feedback. QUEST offers a three pronged process for assessing the performance of Homebuilders programs, and a methodology for continuous quality improvement:
  • Delineation of Homebuilders standards;
  • Measurement of and feedback regarding fidelity of service implementation;
  • Development of quality enhancement plans, including training and consultation, which upgrade program capacities at all levels.
QUEST Activities Include:
  • Infrastructure development in the public agency/ funding agency;
  • Assistance in hiring program staff;
  • Workshop training for program managers, supervisors, and therapists;
  • Clinical consultation and home visits with therapists and supervisors;
  • Technical assistance for program managers, supervisors, and support staff;
  • Review of case record documentation;
  • Review of agency and individual performance on fidelity measures;
  • Review of program outcomes.
For more information, please refer to the Homebuilders Standards.

Key Program Elements
  • Intervention at the crisis point
    Professional therapists reach families when the families are in crisis. Client families are seen within 24 hours of referral.

  • Treatment in the natural setting
    Almost all services take place in the client's home or the community where the problems are occurring and, ultimately, where they need to be resolved.

  • Accessibility and responsiveness
    Therapists are on call to their clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Families are given as much time as they need, when they need it. This accessibility also allows close monitoring of potentially dangerous situations.

  • Intensity
    Services are time-limited and concentrated in a period targeted at 4 weeks. The service is designed to resolve the immediate crisis, and teach the skills necessary for the family to remain together. Each family receives an average of 40 to 50 hours of direct service.

  • Low caseloads
    Therapists carry only 2 to 3 cases at a time. This enables them to be accessible and provide intensive services. Low caseloads also allow therapists the time to work on specific psycho-educational interventions, as well as the basic hard service needs of the family. While therapists see the same total number of families per year as therapists in many traditional programs, the services are concentrated to take advantage of the time when families are experiencing the most pain, and have the most motivation to change.

  • Research-based interventions
    Therapists utilize a range of research-based interventions, including crisis intervention, motivational interviewing, parent education, skill building, and cognitive/behavioral therapy.

  • Flexibility
    Services are provided when and where the clients wish. Therapists provide a wide range of services, from helping clients meet the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, to the most sophisticated therapeutic techniques. Therapists teach families basic skills such as using public transportation systems, budgeting, and where necessary, dealing with the social services system. They also educate families in areas more commonly associated with counseling, such as child development, parenting skills, anger management, other mood management skills, communications, and assertiveness.

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".

* Client names have been changed to protect their identity.