Scientific Rating:
Supported by Research Evidence
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. Homebuilders® has been rated by the CEBC in the areas of: Interventions for Neglect, Post-Permanency Services, Reunification Programs and Family Stabilization Programs.

Target Population: Families with children (birth to 18) at imminent risk of placement into, or needing intensive services to return from, foster care, group or residential treatment, psychiatric hospitals, or juvenile justice facilities

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Brief Description

Homebuilders® is a home- and community-based intensive family preservation services treatment program designed to avoid unnecessary placement of children and youth into foster care, group care, psychiatric hospitals, or juvenile justice facilities.The program model engages families by delivering services in their natural environment, at times when they are most receptive to learning, and by enlisting them as partners in assessment, goal setting, and treatment planning. Reunification cases often require case activities related to reintegrating the child into the home and community. Examples include helping the parent find childcare, enrolling the child in school, refurbishing the child's bedroom, and helping the child connect with clubs, sports or other community groups. Child neglect referrals often require case activities related to improving the physical condition of the home, improving supervision of children, decreasing parental depression and/or alcohol and substance abuse, and helping families access needed community supports.

Program Goals:

The goals of Homebuilders® are:

  • Reduce child abuse and neglect
  • Reduce family conflict
  • Reduce child behavior problems
  • Teach families the skills they need to prevent placement or successfully reunify with their children

Essential Components

The essential components of Homebuilders® include:

  • Engagement: Use a collaborative and collegial approach to engage and motivate families
  • Assessment and Goal Setting: Use client-directed assessment across life domains, ongoing safety assessment and planning, domestic violence assessment, suicide assessment, and crisis planning
  • Behavior Change: Use cognitive and behavioral research-based practices and behavioral interventions
  • Skills Development: Teach parents and children a wide variety of “life skills” using “teaching interaction” process including practice, feedback, and homework
  • Concrete Services: Provide and/or help the family access concrete goods and services that are directly related to achieving the family’s goals, while teaching them to meet these needs on their own
  • Community Coordination and Interactions: Coordinate, collaborate, and advocate with state, local, public, and community services and systems affecting the family, while teaching clients to advocate and access support for themselves.
  • Immediate Response To Referral: Accept referrals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; therapist and back- up are available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Service Provided in the Natural Environment: Provide services in the families’ homes and community
  • Caseload Size: Carry caseloads of two families at a time on average, but can be as high as five
  • Flexibility and Responsiveness: Tailor services to each family’s needs, strengths, lifestyle, and culture

Child/Adolescent Services

Homebuilders® directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Noncompliance, behavioral/emotional problems, aggression/anger, truancy, and running away

Parent/Caregiver Services

Homebuilders® directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Family conflict and violence, poor parenting skills, depression, aggression/anger, substance abuse, child abuse, and neglect

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home


Homebuilders® includes a homework component:

Homework is individually tailored based on family goals; usually includes collecting data, practicing skills, and implementing interventions.


Homebuilders® does not have materials available in a language other than English.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • A team of 3-5 therapists, 1 supervisor (carries a partial caseload), and 1 secretary/support staff
  • A small amount of staff work/office space, supplies, telephone, copier, etc.
  • Pagers and /or cell phones
  • Clinical staff use their own vehicles for home visits, mileage is paid for all client and program related travel
  • Access to a computer and Internet for client records and data collection

Minimum Provider Qualifications

  • Therapist: Master's degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or a related field, or Bachelor's degree in same fields plus two years of experience working with families.
  • Supervisor: Master's degree in psychology, social work, counseling or a related field, or Bachelor's degree in same fields plus two years of experience providing the program, plus one year supervisory/management experience.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
  • Shelley Leavitt, PhD, Associate Director
    Institute for Family Development

    phone: (253) 874-3630
    34004 16th Ave. So., Suite 200
    Federal Way, WA 98003
Training is obtained:

Workshop training is provided onsite or at headquarters in Federal Way, WA. Program implementation and quality assurance is provided by telephone and on site.

Number of days/hours:

Recommended for clinical staff: 5 days initial training; 8 days of intermediate/advanced training; and 7 additional days of training for supervisors. Program implementation and quality assurance process involves quarterly 2-3 day site visits, 12 hours of records reviews, and 6-8 hours per month phone consultation.

Implementation Information

Since Homebuilders® is rated on the Scientific Rating Scale, information was requested from the program representative on available pre-implementation assessments, implementation tools, and/or fidelity measures.

Show implementation information...

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Homebuilders® as listed below:

The Intensive Family Preservation Services Implementation Guide provides policy makers, funders, program developers, and administrators with tools for assessing capacity and planning for implementation of Homebuilders® programs. Topics include:

  • Examining need
  • Assessing capacity
  • Identifying system supports and barriers
  • Preparing for program startup.

The guide is available through the Institute for Family Development. To purchase the guide, email Shelley Leavitt, PhD, at sleavit@institutefamily.org, or call her at 253-874-3630.

Individuals can assess their skill readiness to be a Homebuilders® therapist through use of the Initial Professional Development Plan, a 36-item checklist which includes:

  • Ability to implement behavioral interventions
  • Ability to use critical thinking skills in designing clinical interventions
  • Ability to active listen to multiple family members at one time.

The checklist can be found at www.institutefamily.org/pdf/Initial-Pro-Dev-Plan.pdf.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Homebuilders® as listed below:

The Homebuilders® quality enhancement and training (QUEST) division provides ongoing clinical and program management consultation and site development services to sites replicating the model.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Homebuilders® as listed below:

Each of the 20 Homebuilders® Standards has multiple fidelity measures. They are available at http://www.institutefamily.org.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Homebuilders® as listed below:

The Homebuilders® Implementation Guide contains program standards, fidelity measures, and clinical and supervisory tools.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Homebuilders®.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "2 - Supported by Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The program must have at least one rigorous randomized controlled trial with a sustained effect of at least 6 months. The article(s) below that reports outcomes from an RCT showing a sustained effect of at least 6 months has an asterisk (*) at the beginning of its entry. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcome: Permanency

Show relevant research...

Wood, S., Barton, K., & Schroeder, C. (1988). In-home treatment of abusive families: Cost and placement at one year. Psychotherapy, 25(3), 409-414.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest with comparison group
Number of Participants: 59 children in 26 families


  • Age — Families First: Mean=8.9 years, Comparison Group: Mean=5.4 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 72% White, 15% Black, 9% Asian, and 4% Hispanic
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families at risk of having a child placed out-of-home, who were referred to the Families First program.

Location/Institution: Northern California

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
A comparison was made between families referred to the Families First home-based service program [now called Homebuilders®] and those receiving usual services. Group assignment was not random, but there were no significant difference between groups on financial aid, ethnicity, sex of referred children, or reason for referral. The groups were evaluated on cost of services and whether or not children remained at home. Results showed 74% of the Families First children remained at home compared to 45% of the comparison group. Placement costs were also significantly lower for the in-home services group. Limitations included lack of random assignment to groups. Interviews showed that some workers expressed biases against in-home services and so were less likely to assign children to that group. Limitations included lack of randomization of participants, interview bias, and generalizability due to ethnicity.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year.

*Fraser, M. W., Walton, E., Lewis, R. E., Pecora, P. J., & Walton, W. K. (1996). An experiment in family reunification: Correlates of outcomes at one-year follow-up. Children and Youth Services Review, 18(4/5), 335-361.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 110


  • Age — 1-17 years (Mean=10.8 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 82.7% White
  • Gender — 57.9% Female
  • Status — Participants were children in foster care.

Location/Institution: Utah

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Families were randomly assigned to receive an experimental family reunification intervention [now called Homebuilders®] or to a routine services control group. Families in the intervention group received a program delivered by experienced child welfare worker with advanced degrees. The program was directed at building collaborative relationships with parents, strengthening communication, problem-solving and parenting skills, addressing concrete needs (e.g., food, shelter, employment), and providing in-home support when the family was reunified. Significantly more children in the treatment group returned to their families within the 90-day treatment program than did control group children. Treatment group children also returned in a shorter amount of time than did control children. Children who went through the treatment program spent more time in their own home than did control group children during the 6-month and 12-month follow-up periods. At one-year postintervention follow-up, 70% of children who were in the program remained home as compared to 47% of children in the control group. Limitations include generalizability due to ethnicity and also limited to participants in foster care system.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year.

*Walton, E. (1998). In-home family focused reunification: A six-year follow-up of a successful experiment. Social Work Research, 22(4), 205-214.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 120 children


  • Age — 6.4-23.9 years at 6-year follow-up
  • Race/Ethnicity — 82.7% White
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children and young adults currently or formerly in foster care.

Location/Institution: Utah

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Note: This study uses sample from Fraser, et al. (1996), with the addition of 10 young adults who turned 18 during the intervention in that study. The follow-up examined placement and welfare service histories for children included in the original trial. The authors compared the intervention group [now called Homebuilders®] to the control group on total days of public agency involvement during the 6 years, total number of referrals to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), public agency involvement after DCFS case closure, and reason for discontinuing services. Groups did not differ on days of DCFS involvement and number of referrals. Groups were also equal in the extent to which they received extensive involvement with services, defined as placement in a foster home, corrections facility, or facility of the Department of Mental Retardation. Experimental families received more services overall, which authors attribute as possibly being a result of the intervention's focus on networking families with services. Finally, a greater number of intervention families were classified as having discontinued services due to the family situation being stabilized. Limitations include generalizability due to ethnicity and also limited to former and current participants in the foster care system.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Approximately 5.75 years.


Kinney, J. M., Haapala, D. A., & Booth, C. (2004). Keeping families together: The Homebuilder® Model. New Brunswick, New Jersey. Aldine Transaction.

Wood, S., Baron, K., & Schroeder, C. (1988). In-home treatment of abusive families: Cost and placement at one year. Psychotherapy, 25(3), 409-414.

Contact Information

Charlotte Booth
Title: Executive Director
Agency/Affiliation: Institute for Family Development
Website: www.institutefamily.org
Phone: (253) 927-1550
Fax: (253) 838-1670

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: August 2016

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: March 2016

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2006