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Intensive Family Preservation Services (HOMEBUILDERS®)

Child Welfare
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2019.  Literature review updated August 2017.
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Intensive Family Preservation Services are short-term, home-based crisis intervention services that emphasize out-of-home placement prevention. The original program, HOMEBUILDERS®, was developed in 1974 in Federal Way, Washington. The program emphasizes contact with the family within 24 hours of the crisis, staff accessibility round the clock, small caseload sizes, service duration of four to six weeks, and provision of intensive, concrete services and counseling. These programs are intended to prevent removal of a child from his or her biological home (or to promote his or her return to that home) by improving family functioning. For this analysis, we present the effects of all such programs together.
The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2018). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $9,866 Benefits minus costs $13,628
Participants $4,710 Benefit to cost ratio $4.76
Others $516 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $2,158 benefits greater than the costs 96 %
Total benefits $17,250
Net program cost ($3,623)
Benefits minus cost $13,628
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Benefits from changes to:1 Benefits to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime $180 $0 $401 $90 $671
Child abuse and neglect $249 $101 $0 $125 $475
Out-of-home placement $7,144 $0 $0 $3,572 $10,715
K-12 grade repetition $25 $0 $0 $12 $37
K-12 special education $209 $0 $0 $104 $313
Property loss associated with alcohol abuse or dependence $0 $0 $1 $0 $1
Health care associated with PTSD $111 $31 $115 $56 $313
Labor market earnings associated with child abuse & neglect $1,948 $4,576 $0 $0 $6,524
Mortality associated with child abuse and neglect $1 $1 $0 $11 $13
Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($1,811) ($1,811)
Totals $9,866 $4,710 $516 $2,158 $17,250
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $3,547 2008 Present value of net program costs (in 2018 dollars) ($3,623)
Comparison costs $392 2008 Cost range (+ or -) 10 %
This program is typically delivered over a four- to six-week period. Program costs per family provided by DSHS Children's Administration, 2008. WSIPP adjusted for multiple children per family. Comparison group costs were calculated based on social worker time.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Estimated Cumulative Net Benefits Over Time (Non-Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in non-discounted dollars to simplify the “break-even” point from a budgeting perspective. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
Child abuse and neglect 10 2 180 -0.231 0.114 11 -0.231 0.114 17 -0.231 0.044
Out-of-home placement 10 4 337 -0.553 0.148 11 -0.553 0.148 17 -0.553 0.001

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Blythe, B., & Jayaratne, S. (2002). Michigan families first effectiveness study. Retrieved December 5, 2003, from,1687,7-124--21887--,00.html

Feldman, L.H. (1991). Assessing the effectiveness of family preservation services in New Jersey within an ecological context. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services; Bureau of Research, Evaluation, and Quality Assurance.

Fraser, M.W., Walton, E., Lewis, R.E., Pecora, P.J., & Walton, W.K. (1996). An experiment in family reunification: Correlates of outcomes at one-year follow-up. Children and Youth Services Review, 18(4-5), 335-361.

Mitchell, C., Tovar, P., & Knitzer, J. (1989). The Bronx Homebuilders program: An evaluation of the first 45 families. New York: Bank Street College of Education.

Walton, E. (1998). In-home family-focused reunification: A six-year follow-up of a successful experiment. Social Work Research, 22(4), 205-214.