Family Team Conferencing: Results and Implications From An Experimental Study in Florida
This paper will report findings from a federally funded evaluation of two experimental models of Family Team Conferencing (FTC) with families receiving child protective services. These FTC models were designed to align with the components of Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) and other types of family meetings. The first experimental model (Pathway 2) included the trained facilitators to conduct FTCs and to authorize services quickly. The second model (Pathway 3) included all the components of the first model as well as time for families to develop a service plan on their own. The study compared the effectiveness of two experimental FTC models against a standard service model (Pathway 1) facilitated by a case worker rather than a trained facilitator.
This mixed methods, experimental study randomly assigned families into two experimental FTC model groups and one comparison group. Of the 1,156 unique cases/families within the sampling frame, 623 (53.9%) agreed to participate in the study. The process evaluation included independent observations of FTCs, focus groups with family participants and service providers, a Questionnaire for Family Members and Professionals (QFMP), a Community Partners Survey, an analysis of service referral and utilization patterns, and cost analyses. Outcome measures included select CFSR measures associated with safety, permanence, and well-being. In addition, the impact of the different FTC models on protective factors, achieving family-defined services and plan-of-care goals, and emotional and behavioral symptomology of children was examined.
Process evaluation results suggest that FTC models were implemented with fidelity. There were no statistically significant differences in the distribution of presenting problems, demographic characteristics, and family types across all study groups. Further, the amount, type, and cost of service referrals did not change as a result of a family’s participation in any group.
Findings associated with measured outcomes were mixed. There was no significant differences in the average number (and variance) of child placements across all three study groups. However, the reunification rate for Pathway 1 children was statistically higher than Pathway 3 but not Pathway 2. Findings also suggest that the foster care re-entry rate for Pathway 3 cases was significantly higher than Pathway 2 but not Pathway 1 cases. Other measures suggest: the level of family functioning increased over time for Pathway 2 cases; Pathway 2 children were rated as having a significant reduction in levels of hyperactivity and total difficulties; and, Pathway 3 children showed significant reduction in the average scores measuring emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and total difficulties. Additional findings suggest that Pathway 2 and Pathway 3 cases to have a more significant impact (than Pathway 1 cases) in moving families toward plan-of-care goals.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
The child welfare community could benefit from a process/practice that involves families and their supports in decision making. Although the outcomes do not indicate unquestionable support for FTCs in in terms of better outcomes in permanency, reunification, and recidivism (especially for Pathway 3 cases), the FTC process was supported by administrators, case workers, families, service providers, and other community partners.