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Dec/Jan 2011Vol. 11, No. 10The National Resource Center for In-Home Services

Funded in 2009, the Children's Bureau's National Resource Center for In-Home Services (NRCinhome) serves as a knowledge center for promising practices that can help children remain safely in their homes when families are at risk of involvement or actually involved with the child welfare system. With States and Tribes as its target audience, the NRCinhome conducts research and collects and disseminates information and provides training and technical assistance (T&TA) on the best approaches and services for stabilizing families and keeping children safely at home. In this case, "in-home services" refers to resources and services—provided in the home and elsewhere—that can support families with children living at home. The families include both those in which children are at risk of placement, as well as families that have reunified after the children have spent time in foster care.

While there is a general consensus that most children fare better in their own homes, child welfare agencies are often challenged by how to best support families in order to keep children safely at home. The first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) pointed out some of the safety challenges that States faced in providing services to families with children at home. Only six States met the Federal criteria for CFSR Safety Outcome 2 (children are safely maintained in their homes when possible). In Round 2 of the CFSRs, analysis of the first 32 States' final reports showed that States' performance on all outcomes was consistently stronger for foster care cases than for in-home cases. 

Keeping these findings in mind, the NRCinhome aims to fill the knowledge gap regarding effective in-home services. In its first year of operation, the NRC has begun a nationwide assessment of in-home services promising practices. The project includes a literature search that has produced a database of more than one thousand relevant items, an assessment of CFSR final reports to determine what higher-performing States are doing and how they are integrating evidence-based practice into their service delivery approach, and interviews with program managers from States with promising practices.

In addition to this extensive assessment, the NRC has begun or accomplished a number of other projects, including:

  • Convening a national advisory board of in-home services experts
  • Hosting a national meeting of State Promoting Safe and Stable Families program administrators
  • Conducting outreach to Tribes and the new NRC4Tribes
  • Identifying constituents in order to begin to build a peer network

The NRCinhome has already been called upon to provide various kinds of TA, including informational TA, webinars, onsite TA, and group and offsite TA. Two States have requested that the NRC review their current in-home services against evidence-based practices to help them determine how they can improve. The NRC also is working with two Children's Bureau Regional Implementation Centers to (1) assist Tennessee in strengthening in-home services and (2) help the State of Alaska and 16 Native Alaskan Tribes reduce the disproportionate number of Native Alaskan children in foster care by strengthening in-home services for Tribes.

All of this activity has started to define and even help fill the knowledge gap around in-home services. For instance, the NRC can point to the lack of a defined in-home services practice as a major barrier for States that want to enhance and document their in-home services. States also need to reach out to their community-based services partners, adapt and integrate evidence-based practices into their model, improve their safety management, enhance the quality of worker visits, increase their cultural competence, and strengthen their documentation—all practices that may contribute to quality in-home services.

The NRC plans to help States and Tribes integrate and enhance these services so that families are strengthened and more children can remain safely with their families.

Underpinning the NRCinhome efforts is a strong partnership led by the University of Iowa School of Social Work. The other NRC partners are ICF International and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. This diverse group includes staff from all over the country with extensive backgrounds in child welfare practice and research.

For more information on the NRCinhome, contact Lisa D'Aunno, Project Director:

Or visit the NRCinhome website: 

Many thanks to Lisa D'Aunno, who provided the information for this article.