Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) was developed in 2009 to act as a model of intervention. The Ministry of Social Services – South Region provides the Ranch Ehrlo IFPS with contracts to work with families who are at imminent risk of having their children removed from their homes, or those who have recently had their children removed from their care.
The treatment program is designed to keep families safe and to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children. Intensive services are family-focused, child-centered, goal oriented, and provide in-home skills building and after-care supports.
“All of the work we do is in the family’s home,” explained Jill Kusisto, family preservation therapist. “We spend a lot of time engaging with our families, and building strong relationships so they know we’re not judgmental, that they can trust us, and that we’re really there to support them.
The primary goal of IFPS is to help families acquire the skills necessary to keep their children in the home, so that the family can remain living and functioning together.
“I’m a strong believer in preventative work and how impactful it can be,” said Jill. “Any time we can prevent a child from being removed from their home is a success.”
The program was built upon the beliefs that children should live with their families whenever safe to do so; that children have the right to have a safe and nurturing home; that many family problems occur due to a lack of skills/supports and that change can be best achieved by recognizing and using individual family strengths.
All referrals are made by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Service Family Service workers. To participate in IFPS, it must be determined that a child is in need of protection according to The Child and Family Services Act; alternative out-of-home placement is imminent; participation is voluntary; parents are willing to work with the child long-term; and other services in the community would be unable to prevent placement/ provide supports suited to the needs of the family.
Child Protection Services will identify the issues that are the primary reasons children are at risk of coming into care, Jill explained. Therapists will then work with the family for a period of six to eight weeks to minimize the risk through skill development and goal achievement. Support and assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It is short term, but that six to eight week period is intensive,” said Jill. “During that time we see our families every day for between two to five hours per day depending on how much support is needed.”
“We’re not delusional in thinking that we can change everything that has happened in a child’s life or in a parent’s life in six weeks; really our goal is to minimize the child protection risk,” she continued. “A big component of our program is that we recognize six weeks isn’t enough support for our families, so we connect them with additional community resources that can provide long-term supports after IFPS.”
Family preservation therapists provide counselling in child development, effective parenting, mood management skills, communication, assertiveness, and problem-solving methods. Therapists also teach families basic life skills and how to use other agencies for support.
“Our families can contact us for any kind of support: if parents are having problems with their child(ren) going to bed at night or waking up in the morning; if their child is having a temper-tantrum; or if they have substance abuse problems and feel that they are going to relapse. We can provide support at any time, whether it’s over the phone or at their home,” said Jill.
“We’re able to build really amazing relationships with our clients, and I think that’s the most rewarding part of the job.”
Since its inception in December 2009, the IFPS program has served approximately 125 families. Approximately 82 per cent of the families who completed the program remained intact at the time of discharge from IFPS.