Implementing Family Connections (Birth to Age 5)

Model implementation summary last updated: 2013

The information in this implementation report reflects feedback, if provided, from this model’s developer as of the above date. The description of the implementation of the model(s) here may differ from how the model(s) was implemented in the manuscripts reviewed to determine this model’s evidence of effectiveness. Inclusion in the implementation report does not mean the practices described meet the HHS criteria for evidence of effectiveness. Please see the Effectiveness button on the left for more information about any research on the effectiveness of the model, including any version(s) of the model with effectiveness research. Versions of the model that are described in the Adaptations and enhancements section of this implementation report may include (1) versions that were identified by the model’s developer and (2) versions that have been implemented by researchers and have manuscripts that HomVEE rated high or moderate, but that are not supported by the model’s developer.

Model overview

Theoretical approach

Family Connections service delivery is based upon nine core principles: (1) community outreach; (2) family assessment; (3) individualized, tailored intervention; (4) helping alliance; (5) empowerment approaches; (6) strengths perspective; (7) cultural competence; (8) developmental appropriateness; and (9) outcome-driven service plans.
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Implementation support

Family Connections is a community-based, neglect-prevention program targeting at-risk families with children. The program was created and initially implemented by the Ruth H. Young Center for Families and Children at the University of Maryland in Baltimore’s School of Social Work. The program was replicated in eight communities across the United States between 2003 and 2008, with funding from the Children’s Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and has since been replicated with other funding in additional locations. Implementation support is provided by the Ruth H. Young Center for Families and Children.

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Intended population

Family Connections can be implemented with families with children birth to age 18 although the program originally targeted children ages 5 to 11. For the purposes of the HomVEE review, this profile is based on developer recommendations and studies of programs that target children birth to age 5. The replication project eligibility criteria required that the child had to be living with the primary caregiver for at least six months and be expected to remain with the primary caregiver. The family could not be currently involved with Child Protective Services, and participation had to be voluntary. Additionally, the family or child had to exhibit at least two risk factors, and the child had to be at risk for at least one subtype of neglect. The risk factors were as follows:


  • Employment (overemployed, newly employed, or unemployed)
  • Mental health problem
  • Alcohol or drug problem
  • Serious health challenges


  • Behavior or mental health problem (e.g., ADHD, truancy, vandalism, depression)
  • Physical disability
  • Developmental disability (e.g., speech and language disorder, mental retardation)
  • Learning disability
  • Alcohol or drug problem


  • Homelessness
  • Domestic violence
  • More than three children in the household

Subtypes of neglect:

  • Inadequate/delayed health care
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Inadequate clothing
  • Unsanitary household conditions
  • Unsafe household conditions
  • Unstable living conditions
  • Shuttling
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Inappropriate substitute caregiver
  • Inadequate nurturing
  • Isolating
  • Witnessing violence
  • Permitting drug/alcohol use
  • Permitting other maladaptive behavior
  • Delay in obtaining needed mental health care
  • Chronic truancy
  • Unmet special education needs
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Targeted outcomes

Family Connections works to enhance protective factors, decrease risk factors, and ultimately improve child safety and child well-being.
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Model services

The core program components of Family Connections are (1) outreach and engagement, (2) intake and screening, (3) emergency services, (4) comprehensive family assessment using standardized instruments, (5) case planning with SMART goals, (6) home visiting, (7) client advocacy and service facilitation (indirect services), (8) assessing progress on case plans at least every 90 days, and (9) multifamily recreational and supportive activities (optional).

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Model intensity and length

During the replication project Family Connections required at least one hour of face-to-face services be provided to each family at least once per week for at least three months.
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Since Family Connections’ initial implementation, the program has been implemented in numerous communities across the United States, including Albuquerque, NM; Baltimore, MD; Camden, NJ; Detroit, MI; Elkins, WV; Fort Collins, CO; Houston, TX; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; San Antonio, TX; Reno, NV; and rural Texas (multiple sites).

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Adaptations and enhancements

Family Connections sites have used several program adaptations:

  • Grandparent Family Connections, designed in response to the unique needs and circumstances of families headed by grandparents
  • A program that targeted Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, and Thai individuals and families
  • A program that targeted children with developmental disabilities or chronic health conditions
  • Trauma Adapted Family Connections, designed in response to families with parents and/or children experiencing trauma symptoms 
  • SAFE-Family Connections, which combines the Family Connections intervention with a safety intervention developed by ACTION for Child Protection for families in the child welfare system that have at least one child determined to be unsafe

Family Connections sites also have enhanced Family Connections with several additional services:

  • Parental self-nurturing activities
  • Parent education groups
  • Health and legal services
  • Motivational interviewing intervention
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Implementation notes

The information contained on this page was last updated in April 2013. Recommended further reading lists the sources for this information. In addition, the information contained in this profile was reviewed for accuracy by the Family Connections developer in March 2013. HomVEE reserves the right to edit the profile for clarity and consistency.

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