Families Together

About This Program

Target Population: Families separated by court order and involved in the state's child welfare system

Program Overview

Families Together, a program of Providence Children's Museum (PCM), was created in 1992 in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). The program provides therapeutic visits for children aged 1 to 11 throughout Rhode Island with their parents. These families must have been separated by court order due to abuse or neglect and referred to the program by their DCYF caseworker. These participant families consist of children and their parent or parents, and in some cases extended family members. The family makes a series of visits to the museum, where, under the guidance of the program's family therapists, they play and learn together. The families visit PCM weekly or bi-weekly for 3 to 6 months; some continue for as long as a year. Families Together program assistants provide transportation. Guided by one of the family therapists, families engage in healthy play activities and communication necessary for successful reunification. Visiting in this environment gives parents hands-on experience and immediate feedback as they master parenting skills.

Program Goals

The program representative did not provide information about the program’s goals.

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Families Together.

Essential Components

The essential components of Families Together include:

  • Referral and behind the scenes process:
    • Visiting families must be involved with the state's Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and separated from one another due to court order after a finding of abuse or neglect is determined.
    • Cases referred to Families Together go through a screening process conducted by a clinical consultant.
    • Families Together therapists work closely with the DCYF caseworkers and the other members of the treatment team to ensure that the family is well-informed, supported, and aware of the their progress and challenges.
    • Families Together clinical consultants are available on a daily basis to caseworkers and supervisors at all regional DCYF offices to assist workers in documenting visits and developing effective visiting plans and strategies for successful visits.
    • Clinical consultants also meet with families and DCYF staff members, observe and participate in visits at the regional offices and in the community, and screen referrals to the Families Together visiting program.
    • Families Together program assistants help with transportation and office work.
  • Visitation at the Children's Museum:
    • Visitation takes place in the Children's Museum when the Museum is open to the public.
    • Once accepted into the program, families are assigned a therapist who helps the parent(s) define their goals for program participation. These goals are reviewed every sixth visit (with a maximum of 18 visits routinely offered to families).
    • Family clinicians mentor and coach parent(s) during each visit, offering immediate feedback and suggestions to help families reach their stated goals. Their role is to promote healthy relationship development, assess parenting strengths and challenges, offer strategies to assist the parent(s), and make recommendations to the DCYF caseworker and the Family Court about the family's skills which will help them make the best permanency decision for the family.
    • Play is a central part of Families Together's visitation work.
    • In many situations, the Families Together family therapists are the only providers that see the entire family together for an extended period of time.
  • Visitation training programs:
    • Families Together has a training partnership with the Rhode Island Child Welfare Institute at Rhode Island College (the training arm of the DCYF). Families Together provides a training for all new DCYF caseworkers on visitation and a three-day training on best practice in visitation, and participates in the "Where's Daddy?" training by providing training on visitation within it.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Families Together directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Previous abuse or neglect by parents, aggressive behaviors, mental health challenges, developmental delays, medical problems (i.e., failure to thrive), attachment difficulties

Parent/Caregiver Services

Families Together directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Neglect or abuse of their children with problems concerning mental illness, substance abuse addiction, domestic violence, poverty, cognitive limitations, lack of literacy skills, and histories of child welfare involvement

Recommended Intensity:

Weekly or bi-weekly visits at the museum with a two-hour maximum length of visit

Recommended Duration:

Eighteen visits, but in special circumstances, the number of visits can be extended. Most families in the program initially visit one another for one hour; the length of their visit time can be increased as the parents are able to take on more responsibility.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Other


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • The Museum, including its exhibits, programs, and staff (including creative designers that help create materials for participants)
  • A Museum Board of Directors who fully supports this program

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) staff are also a resource for this program, in addition to the many programs and agencies they financially support that also serve the families during their time of separation.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Therapists require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in a human service related field.

Clinical consultants are required to have a Master's degree in social work or a related field.

Transport assistants are required to have experience or education in the field of child development, social work, or family studies to work in our program.

All staff must have knowledge of mental illness/mental health challenges, domestic violence, substance abuse, child development, developmental disabilities, and state child welfare practices and policies.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contacts:
  • Tonya Glantz, MSW, Clinical Training Specialist
    Child Welfare Institute at Rhode Island College
    600 Mount Pleasant Ave.
    Providence, RI 02908
  • Cheryl Lepre, MA, Clinical Consultant
    Families Together, Providence Children's Museum
    100 South St.
    Providence, RI 02903
Training Type/Location:

Provided at the Providence Children's Museum and at Rhode Island College

Number of days/hours:

Vary depending on training focus - anywhere from two hours to three days

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for Families Together.

Additional References

Brinig, H., & O'Donnell, J. (1999). The children's museum: An oasis for troubled families. Hand to Hand (Quarterly journal of the Association of Children's Museums), 13(1): 1-2, 7.

Cavallaro, P. (2000). Implementing the Adoption and Safe Families Act (part 2), States at Work (publication of the American Public Human Services Association), June issue.

Mallon, G. P., & McCartt Hess, P. (2005). "Families Together" child welfare for the 21st century: A handbook of practices, policies, and programs. New York: Columbia University Press.

Contact Information

Heidi Brinig, MA
Agency/Affiliation: Providence Children's Museum
Department: Families Together
Phone: (401) 273-5437 x131
Fax: (401) 273-1004

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: July 2015

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: October 2007