Study Published in Families in Society Finds Foster Care Program for Siblings Highly Effective for Key Child Welfare Outcomes

A longitudinal study of Neighbor To Family (NTF), a foster care program that uses a trauma-sensitive, child- and family-centric approach that prepares sibling groups for permanency and the future through the use of professional caregivers, found that 54 percent of the children in the NTF group were reunified with their parents, compared to 18 percent of the control group. The study appeared in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, which is published by the Alliance for Children and Families.

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Milwaukee, WI (PRWEB) June 20, 2014

A longitudinal study of Neighbor To Family (NTF), a foster care program that uses a trauma-sensitive, child- and family-centric approach that prepares sibling groups for permanency and the future through the use of professional caregivers, found that 54 percent of the children in the NTF group were reunified with their parents, compared to 18 percent of the control group.

“Neighbor To Family: Supporting Sibling Groups in Foster Care,” by Jim Rast and Jessica E. Rast in the April–June 2014 (Vol. 95, No. 2) issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, reports on the first controlled study of NTF. Using a propensity analysis, the Rasts compared three-year outcomes in four Georgia counties (Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinett) for 417 children receiving the NTF services with a matched group of 417 children receiving traditional foster care services.

Originally developed as the Neighbor to Neighbor program in 1994 by Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago under the direction of Gordon Johnson, NTF’s professional foster caregiver model achieves success through extensive training and support for caregivers; a team-based approach that involves family, kin, and caregivers as equal partners; and intentional and concentrated outreach to biological parents and extended family.

Other research findings include:

-- 36 percent of the NTF group was adopted or taken into guardianship by relatives compared to 16 percent of the control group,
-- 4 percent of the NTF group were adopted by nonrelatives compared to 28 percent of the control group,
-- 11 percent of the children in the control group aged out of the system without a placement compared to 1 percent of the children in NTF services, and
-- at the end of three years, 27 percent of the control group was still in custody, compared to 6 percent of the NTF group.

The study also explores the cost-effectiveness NTF was able to achieve over the three-year period. The average cost savings per child receiving specialized services including NTF, as opposed to traditional foster care services, was $27,303. This amount is due to the NTF group experiencing significantly shorter periods of time in specialized care—specifically, using six times fewer days of more restrictive services such as group homes, residential centers, and psychiatric hospitals.

Refined and replicated in other states as Neighbor To Family, including Georgia and Florida in 1997, the program trains and hires caregivers for whole sibling groups from the communities with the highest need for foster care. This proves to be instrumental in keeping significantly more of the children in their home counties and keeping them connected to their communities, thus closer to friends, family, and schools.

“The research study indicates carefully selected, professionally trained foster parents are essential and effective in bringing about positive change for at-risk children and their families,” said Gordon Johnson, who is now the president and CEO of Neighbor To Family in Daytona Beach, Florida. “With intensive biological participation and accountability, foster parent mentoring, and use of trauma treatment techniques, more than 10,000 children have been stabilized, and program outcomes include less than one placement move per child.”

“Like a growing number of child welfare services that are reframing their approaches to child well-being, this strengths-based approach truly embraces engagement values and is proving to be a wise investment with great return. Embracing these values represents a transformational orientation that is key to achieving not just outcomes but larger societal impact,” says Susan N. Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families, which publishes Families in Society.

In the Rasts’ analysis, propensity score matching was a sound method for creating a surrogate of the control group for a counterfactual outcome. Propensity scores for all individuals were calculated based on eight variables: county, being part of a sibling group, date of entering foster care, race, sex, age, level of care for the child, and primary reason for foster care placement. Using propensity score matching in this study led to successful control of the covariates and confounding that are measured in these data, as well as results that are a good surrogate for a randomized clinical trial.

“Neighbor To Family: Supporting Sibling Groups in Foster Care” by Jim Rast and Jessica E. Rast appears in the 2014 April–June issue of Families in Society and is available for download: http://ow.ly/xWoqY.

Celebrating 95 years in 2014, Families in Society is America’s oldest and one of its most revered social work journals. It is published by the Alliance for Children and Families, a national organization dedicated to achieving a vision of a healthy society and strong communities for all children, adults, and families. The Alliance works for transformational change by representing and supporting its network of hundreds of nonprofit human serving organizations across North America as they translate knowledge into best practices that improve their communities. Working with and through its member network on leadership and advocacy, the Alliance strives to achieve high impact by reducing the number of people living in poverty; increasing the number of people with opportunities to live healthy lives; and increasing the number of people with access to educational and employment success. Go to alliance1.org for more information.


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