Program

Feb 19, 2009

OVERVIEW

The Families First
program is a six-week, intensive home-based intervention for families that have
difficulties managing severe behavioral problems in their children. The program
implements a parenting-skills training approach aimed at decreasing problem
behaviors in children. In an evaluation of the program, 164 families with
children identified as having severe behavioral problems were randomly assigned
to receive the Families First intervention or to a no-treatment control group.
Results indicate that families receiving the Families First intervention
reported significantly greater decreases in child behavior problems and in the
utilization of concrete and physical care services immediately after the
intervention and at a three-month follow-up compared to families in the control
group. Furthermore, families receiving the intervention reported significantly
greater increases in parent effectiveness and in positive parent-child
relationships immediately after the intervention compared to families in the
control group.

DESCRIPTION
OF PROGRAM

Target
population:
Families with children between the ages of 0 and 17 who are
exhibiting serious behavioral problems.

The Families First
program is a home-based intervention for families that have difficulties
managing severe behavioral problems in their children. The program uses a
strengths-based, skills training approach that focuses on encouraging a parent’s
agenda for change. The skills training sessions emphasize modeling and the
supervised practicing of effective parenting and parent-child relations. The
program focuses on teaching skills such as communication, rule-setting, and
providing praise and consequences for child behaviors. The program also
provides concrete services, such as helping with finances and improving
community support in the schools and elsewhere.

The program has an
intensive curriculum; it takes place over a period of six weeks, and treatment
specialists meet with families for as many as 15 hours a week. The majority of
sessions include the entire family. Treatment staff generally did not have
clinical credentials. Additionally, during the treatment period and for an
extended amount of time after completion of the treatment, program specialists
are on call to respond to crises 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

EVALUATION(S)
OF PROGRAM

Lewis, R. E.
(2005). The effectiveness of Families First services: An experimental study. Children and Youth Services Review, 27,499-509.

Evaluated
population: 
164 families with children between the ages of 3 and 17 who had
been identified by their schools or juvenile courts as having severe behavior
problems. About three-fourths of the children were boys, and 28% came from
minority families. The majority of the families belonged to lower income
groups.

Approach:
Families were randomly assigned to either the Families First intervention group
or a no-treatment control group. Upon referral, families were given a
questionnaire that measured use of concrete services (help with community
supports and finances) and physical care resources, parent effectiveness and
parent-child relationships, and child behavior problems. The survey was
administered to the families twice more over the course of the study: once
immediately after the Families First intervention had been completed, and again
three months later.

Families assigned
to the control group were able to utilize services typically offered to families
receiving referrals from schools or juvenile courts for their children’s severe
behavior problems.

Parents and
children from families assigned to the Families First program met with trained
Family Specialists for up to 15 hours a week over a period of six weeks. Family
Specialists provided parental-skills training that focused on helping the
parents practice effective parenting and improving parent-child relationships.

Results:
Results indicated that, immediately following the intervention and three months
later, parents in the intervention group reported a significantly greater
decrease from the pre-test in the use of concrete services and physical care
resources than families assigned to the control group. Additionally,
immediately after the intervention, parents in families receiving the Families
First treatment reported a significantly greater increase in parent
effectiveness and positive parent child-relationship quality than families in
the control group. However, there were no differences across groups in changes
from the pre-test to the three month follow-up on these parent indicators.
Finally, immediately following the intervention and three months later, families
in the Families First group reported significantly greater decreases in child
behavior problems.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Information on implementing this
program can be obtained from:

Robert E. Lewis

Utah Division of
Child and Family Services

120 North 200 West

Room 225

Salt Lake City, UT
84103

References:

Lewis, R. E.
(2005). The effectiveness of Families First services: An experimental study. Children and Youth Services Review, 27,499-509.

KEYWORDS: Early
Childhood (0-5), Children (3-11), Adolescence (12-17), Home-based,
Clinic-based, Infants (0-12 months), Toddlers (12-36 months), Youth (16+)
Counseling/Therapy, Home Visitation, Aggression,
Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Delinquency, High-Risk,
Juvenile Offenders, White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Hispanic or
Latino.

Program
information last updated on 2/19/09.