Services and Interventions for the Preservation of the Family Unit and the Reunification of Children from Out-of-Home Placements with their Families

The care of children who cannot grow up with their parents due to poor parenting has until now focused essentially on the children themselves, while strengthening the functioning of the parents has not been emphasized. Without a change in their parenting, the children’s chances of remaining with their families or returning to live with their parents and growing up in a nurturing, stable family are reduced. Furthermore, the parents’ other children – those who have not been removed from home – remain at risk, because they are liable to be exposed to the same harmful parenting behaviors. Consequently, and due to the shortage in the supply of family rehabilitation services in Israel, one of the main recommendations of the committee examining the policies of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) regarding the placement of children at risk in out-of-home facilities (Silman Committee, 2014), was to “focus intervention on rehabilitating negligent families and utilizing the rehabilitation processes in the community to the greatest extent possible both before and after the child is removed from the home.”

Following this recommendation, an experimental program was developed – “Families on the Path to Growth.”  The program is aimed at providing intensive rehabilitation services within a defined timeframe for families with children at risk aged 6 and over, who are placed, or are being considered for placement, in out-of-home arrangements because of poor parental functioning. The main goal of the program is to allow children to live with their families and to ensure that they grow up in a nurturing, stable family. MOLSA and JDC-Ashalim are implementing the experimental program in several localities. MJB was commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the program.

As a first stage, the study included a review of best-practice principles in literature. The review includes:

  • Characteristics of programs to preserve the family unit: the literature indicates that these programs are short term and characterized by ongoing availability to address crisis and emergency situations.
  • Characteristics of programs for reunification of families: the literature indicates that these programs are longer term and characterized by the provision of specialized family services and support after reunification.
  • Characteristics and factors found to be associated with the effectiveness of both types of programs: characteristics of the system, the families and children and the intervention.

The review is serving MOLSA and JDC-Ashalim, as well as all the professional stakeholders involved, to improve the pilot during the course of its implementation. It also contributes to further development of the professional knowledge in this area.

The evaluation and the literature review were commissioned by JDC-Ashalim and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and funded with their assistance.