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Understanding change among multi-problem families: Learnings from a formative program assessment


  • Millett, Lina Sapokaite
  • Ben-David, Vered
  • Jonson-Reid, Melissa
  • Echele, Greg
  • Moussette, Pam
  • Atkins, Valerie


This paper describes the implementation of a long-term voluntary intervention to prevent chronic maltreatment among multi-problem families with histories of child welfare involvement. A small formative evaluation included a limited number of interviews with program participants during the first year of program implementation (n=10), a retrospective case file review (n=17) of closed cases following the first three years of implementation, and notes from ongoing meetings and discussion with program staff. Findings regarding client engagement, long-term interaction between risk and services, and program refinement are discussed. Despite the program’s voluntary nature, positive comments from families, and extensive engagement strategies, only about 22% of families remained engaged for the full two-year program. Material hardship was one of the most persistent risk factors from baseline to termination. In many cases, unforeseen negative events occurred that, at least partly, derailed progress. In all cases, progress made was not reflective of a consistent linear process used in the design of most child welfare programs. Implications for program theory and design are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Millett, Lina Sapokaite & Ben-David, Vered & Jonson-Reid, Melissa & Echele, Greg & Moussette, Pam & Atkins, Valerie, 2016. "Understanding change among multi-problem families: Learnings from a formative program assessment," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 176-183.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:epplan:v:58:y:2016:i:c:p:176-183
    DOI: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.06.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harnett, Paul H., 2007. "A procedure for assessing parents' capacity for change in child protection cases," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(9), pages 1179-1188, September.
    2. Staudt, Marlys & Drake, Brett, 2002. "Intensive Family Preservation Services: Where's the Crisis?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(9-10), pages 777-795.
    3. Silovsky, Jane F. & Bard, David & Chaffin, Mark & Hecht, Debra & Burris, Lorena & Owora, Arthur & Beasley, Lana & Doughty, Debbie & Lutzker, John, 2011. "Prevention of child maltreatment in high-risk rural families: A randomized clinical trial with child welfare outcomes," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1435-1444, August.
    4. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
    5. Barth, Richard P. & Weigensberg, Elizabeth C. & Fisher, Philip A. & Fetrow, Becky & Green, Rebecca L., 2008. "Reentry of elementary aged children following reunification from foster care," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 353-364, April.
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