Journal Issue: Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect Volume 8 Number 1 Spring 1998
Much of the emphasis in the nation's system of child protection focuses on investigations to determine whether child abuse or neglect has occurred, and procedures for arranging out-of-home care for children who are not safe at home. Less attention often goes to the capacity of public and private agencies to provide services that help stressed families prevent child maltreatment before it begins, or that enable families with serious child-rearing problems to stabilize the home and provide more appropriate care for their children. This article examines the current understanding of the most promising and effective means of serving families. It highlights the family-centered service approach, which encompasses family support services for families coping with normal parenting stresses, and family preservation services designed to help families facing serious problems and possible out-of-home placement. The article explains the characteristics of family support and family preservation services, and discusses how these services are accessed and financed. It reviews available evaluation findings regarding the effectiveness of the two types of family-centered services, and considers the challenges faced when evaluating such services. Finally, the article discusses issues related to planning and service delivery, such as coordination and system reform, financing, targeting, relationships between workers and families, and efforts to strengthen entire communities.