Family Support Program – Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service  Evaluation Results



“Assessing the Near and Long Term Impact of the Albemarle County Family Support Program”, an evaluation report prepared by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service



Tucker, White, Ralston





January 5, 2004


ACTION:                            INFORMATION:    X



  ACTION:                          INFORMATION:    










In 1996/97 the Board approved the addition of one Family Support Worker in the Department of Social Services to work in the elementary schools with children and families at risk of abuse and neglect.  At that time the focus was on Stone Robinson and Greer Elementary.  In 1998, the Virginia Department of Social Services provided an opportunity for the department to pilot an extensive prevention program expanding the Family Support concept into all elementary schools in the county.  The State was particularly interested in Albemarle because of the connection among the Human Services Plan, the Neighborhood Team, the Department’s Strategic Plan, the work of the Commission on Children and Families and the existing community network of early intervention providers for the 0-6 population that formed a continuum of services for at risk families. Utilizing funds from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the department embarked on the design and implementation of an expanded program that became fully operational in January 1999.  The new funds not only allowed expansion of the Family Support Program, but also the expansion of Bright Stars through the hiring of a full-time Coordinator and additional hours for the Bright Stars Family Coordinators.  


The Board of Supervisors expressed interest in learning more about the results of this program over time and the department contracted with the Weldon Cooper Center to conduct an evaluation of the program.  The Weldon Cooper Center contracted with Dr. Bruce Gansneder of the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, for the study.  While the department has provided the Board with progress reports on the program over the past five years, this is the first time the Board has received study results from an independent evaluator.  



Strategic Direction 1: Provide high quality educational opportunities for Albemarle County citizens of all ages  

Strategic Direction 3: Enhance the quality of life for all Albemarle County citizens.



To evaluate the effectiveness of the Family Support Program, an evaluation team was assembled with representatives from the Department of Social Services, the Family Support Program, the School system, Weldon Cooper and the Curry School of Education.  Weldon Cooper designed an evaluation for the County’s Family Support Program that would focus on the program’s processes and procedures, as well as begin to identify trend data that could be followed to track both short-term and long-term results of the interventions.  The evaluation focused on program process and procedure, description of activities, contacts and services provided, who was served, how many were served and whether the program was addressing the Title IV-E Pre-placement Prevention requirements.  It also went beyond that to determine interventions that were “successes” and to build an information system that could be used over time to manage and evaluate the program.


The Executive Summary, on page 4 of the attached report, provides information on Weldon Cooper’s process for gathering the information and then designing an ongoing data collection system. It also includes a brief listing of the project results, which were:



The executive summary also provides relevant information on the family characteristics, school performance, family risk factors and then a description of the case management services provided to the children and their families and the interventions and their relationship to school performance.   All of this summary data is backed up by more detailed data found in pages 12 – 41 of the full report.


The most compelling part of the evaluation, in addition to the data that the department has collected since the end of the study in 2002,  is in the conclusion section found on page 9, where the report finds that the “Family Support Program interventions are both addressing problem areas and beginning to make a difference.  Data also indicates that the Family Support Program directs it services to meet child and family needs and provides more interventions in areas of specific need…”   The conclusion further states that although it is difficult to prove a causal relationship between services and the improvements, “the correlations between services provided and improvement in client needs is promising”. It also indicates that further study will be needed to determine the long-term impact of the program.


The most valuable benefit to the Department of Social Services from Weldon Cooper’s evaluation project has been the establishment of an effective and ongoing data collection system that continues to provide the department with trend data on the children and families enrolled in the program, as well as the effectiveness of the services that are being provided. This information is then used by the department to make program improvements, change service delivery and most importantly to try to correlate services to desirable long-term outcomes.  Some of the additional data that will be presented to the Board on January 5th will be the decreasing number of children, particularly younger children, going into foster care, as well as the continuing reports back from the schools on positive behavior changes, attendance, grades, etc., as a result of the Family Support Program interventions.


As you are aware, the Family Support Program has recently learned of severe cutbacks in federal reimbursement dollars that may seriously impact the ability to continue the program. Staff has been working diligently over the past several weeks to develop a plan of action to keep the program going, at least on a temporary basis until permanent funding is secured.  More complete financial information on the Family Support Program will also be shared with the Board at the January 5th meeting.



This information is provided for the Board’s information and does not require any action at this time. This Executive Summary provides background for the bound report provided by Weldon Cooper.



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