Who Benefits from IFRS?

Most agencies that have strong IFPS programs for placement prevention also offer IFPS for families that are reunifying. Some agencies use the exact same model for Intensive Family Reunification Services (IFRS) as for IFPS. Other agencies adjust the IFPS model for reunification to reflect that families who are reunifying may not need the crisis response or service intensity of IFPS, or may benefit from longer service duration. Model changes may include extending the time frame for initial response, length of intervention, and adding step-down services. While IFPS models have generally not included step-down services, this may be a critical area for reunification. Nationwide, half of the states fail to meet federal standards for preventing re- entry of children into foster care following reunification.

Although there are little specific data available on the reasons why states struggle with preventing re-entry, some insights are available through research on reunification conducted by the National Family Preservation Network in 2007. IFPS programs were effective across all types of families and all types of mistreatment. The findings encourage broader use of IFPS to address the critical issues of substance abuse and disproportionality within the child welfare system and other systems. The findings for IFRS were more mixed than for IFPS. For IFPS, programs involved in the study achieved a 93% placement prevention rate. For IFRS, 69% of the families were reunified. There was a 22% dropout rate in IFRS families compared with only a 9% dropout rate for IFPS families. The high dropout rate for IFRS may indicate some inappropriate targeting, perhaps using the service to justify filing for termination of parental rights (TPR). This issue needs further exploration. The study found that IFRS programs were most successful in reunifying families involved in physical abuse and were also successful with substance abusing families but less so with families of color and families involved in neglect.

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