Evaluating Family Preservation Programs in Juvenile Justice: A Propensity Score Matching Approach



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This research project examined the impact of Family Preservation Program (FPP) services with adjudicated juveniles from the State of Texas. Family preservation models, used often in child welfare, aim to keep dysfunctional families together, in lieu of placement. This strategy usually involves an intervention team of case workers and therapists. The team works for a short duration with the family by providing intense services during that time. The juvenile probation recipients who received FPP services were matched with a control group who received probation services as usual, in order to examine whether removal and recidivism differs between the groups. Specifically, analyses were conducted on these youth, within one-year post supervision end date. Propensity score matching (PSM) was performed to match youth on several variables: headquarter county, sex, race, onset age, delinquency prior to first formal adjudication, and offense severity. The overarching research questions were whether FPP youth, compared to a control group of youth, had different rates of removal and recidivism prior to and post-matching on relevant covariates. Removal refers to the youth being removed, via a court order, from the juvenile’s respective home, into residential placement (secure or non-secure). Recidivism is defined as a new, Class B or higher referral, or a subsequent formal court adjudication within one year subsequent to the supervision end date. Findings show that FPP youth had a significantly higher rate of removal, but not recidivism, compared to control youth. A finding that was evident both before and after matching on relevant covariates. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are noted.



Family social work, Dysfunctional families, Child welfare, Statistical matching