Family Assessment Response (FAR)

About This Program

Target Population: Families with an accepted child maltreatment report that does not allege sexual abuse or substantial child endangerment (as defined by MN statute 626.556)

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

Family Assessment Response (FAR) [originally named Alternative Response] ensures children's safety and family stability by building on families' strengths and responding to individual needs.

The FAR is one of two responses for an accepted child maltreatment report as part of the Minnesota Child Protection Response Continuum. FAR falls in the middle of this continuum. The other response for an accepted child maltreatment report is the Family Investigation Response which is for more serious reports of child maltreatment (e.g., sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, child endangerment) and is on one end of the continuum. The Parent Support Outreach Program (PSOP) is a statewide voluntary early intervention outreach offer of supports and services to families at risk of future child protection involvement (no accepted report yet) and is on the other end of the continuum.

Program Goals

The goals of Family Assessment Response (FAR) are:

  • The same as the goals of the Minnesota Public Child Welfare System:
    • Children are cared for in safe, permanent, and nurturing families who have the necessary skills and resources to provide for their physical and mental health, behavioral, and educational needs.
    • Children, youth, and families who encounter Minnesota's child welfare system are supported to achieve equitable outcomes regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or tribal status.
    • Children are safely maintained in their families and communities with connections, culture, and relationships preserved and established.
    • Minnesota's public child welfare staff is a diverse, professionally competent team that supports strength-based practice and demonstrates inclusiveness at all levels.

These outcomes are achieved through partnerships involving Minnesota's public child welfare system, the state's children, youth, and families as well as the communities in which they live and work.

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Essential Components

The essential components of Family Assessment Response include:

  • Ensuring Child Safety: Rather than focusing on only the specific details of the reported incident to prove or disprove that abuse or neglect occurred, social workers and families focus on the safety of children and families' strengths that contribute to child safety and the needs families have.
  • Setting Aside Fault Finding: No determinations of maltreatment are made in FAR. Two decisions are made at the conclusion of a family assessment: whether child protective services are needed or family support services are needed. This is agreed upon jointly by the agency and parents.
  • Working in Partnership with Parents: The focus of FAR is to engage a family's protective capacities and offer strength-based intervention which involves families in planning for and selecting services.
  • Identifying a Family's Strengths and Needs: Social workers are encouraged to work cooperatively with the family to gather information on both what has worked and what hasn't worked, and to explore their perception of the problem. Minnesota utilizes the Structured Decision Making® model to assist workers in identifying the family's strengths and needs.
  • Providing Services and Resources Matched to Family Needs: Engaging with the family and acknowledging their needs will increase the likelihood of family investment in change.
  • Building on the Parents' and the Community's Strengths and Resources: Identifying an individual's and community's strengths can provide guidance in establishing case plan goals. Developing and utilizing strengths that enhance the ability for a family to keep their children safe from harm helps keep the focus on what a family is able to do rather than what they are unable to do.
  • Committing to, and being guided by, the following values and principles of Minnesota's public child welfare system, which created the FAR:
    • Safety: Child safety is paramount and best achieved through the creation of a safety culture at all levels of the child welfare system. This includes supporting parents, resource families, and communities with whom children reside as well as the public and tribal child welfare workers, supervisors, and administrators who make up the system.
    • Permanency: Children and youth need, and have the right to, lifelong nurturing and secure relationships that are provided by families who can meet their specific needs. Efforts to identify and secure permanency for children are continuous and integrated into all stages of involvement with children and families.
    • Fostering Connections for Youth: As youth transition to adulthood, they benefit from services that promote healthy development, academic success, and safe living conditions, as well as establish connections to caring adults who will commit to lasting supportive relationships.
    • Well-being: Children's well-being is dependent upon strong families, communities, and the child welfare system meeting their physical, mental, behavioral health, educational, and cultural needs.
    • Family Focus: Families are the primary providers for children's needs. The safety and well-being of children is dependent upon the safety and well-being of all family members.
    • Collaboration: Children, youth, and families are best served when public and tribal child welfare staff collaborates with families, communities, and tribes. This can be done through actively listening to them, inviting participation in decision making, understanding and honoring each person or family unique situation, and empowering them to meet their own needs through utilization of family strengths.
    • Organizational Improvement: Minnesota's child welfare system recognizes its responsibilities to children, youth, families, and other stakeholders to assess and manage its performance. Public child welfare agencies are committed to continuous learning and improvement through the creation of a safety culture that supports accountability through the opportunity to safely share and learn from successes and failures at all levels of the system. The system also recognizes the need for its practices, service delivery, and performance to be easily understood, evaluated, and open to feedback from stakeholders.
    • Cultural Responsiveness: Cultural responsiveness is achieved through understanding and serving children, youth, and families within a context of each unique situation, family, and community. This includes, but is not limited to, families' beliefs, values, race, ethnicity, dis/ability, history, tribe, culture, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and language.

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Family Assessment Response (FAR) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Abusive or neglectful parenting and possible inadequate housing, food, transportation, health care, and access to safe and affordable child care; in need of services such as counseling to address relationship concerns or child behavior issues, treatment for drug or alcohol problems, or lack of parenting education about topics such as child development and positive discipline

Recommended Intensity:

The intensity of involvement will depend on a family's identified needs and resources.

Recommended Duration:

The duration of involvement will depend on a family's identified needs and resources.


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Typically an agency would identify individuals within their organization that would be suited to working in a strength-based, family-friendly model. Office space, phones, meeting space, transportation, initial and ongoing training, and regular supervision are required to implement and sustain workers using this model.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Staff should be trained on strengths-based social work practice, client engagement skills and safety assessment. Regardless of the amount of time a worker has been in the field, training on these topics is part of the implementation strategy. Workers are required to have a 4-year degree in social work, sociology, psychology, or related field. Workers are required to take Minnesota's Child Welfare Foundation Training within the first six months of employment, which includes training on the Family Assessment Response model.

Manual Information

There is not a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Via consultation for agencies outside of Minnesota

Number of days/hours:

Varies per agency

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is no formal support available for implementation of Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Fidelity Measures

There are no fidelity measures for Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are no implementation guides or manuals for Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Family Assessment Response (FAR).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcomes: Safety and Child/Family Well-Being

Loman, A., & Siegel, G. L. (2005). Alternative Response in Minnesota: Findings of the program evaluation. Protecting Children, 20(2/3), 78-92.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 2,860 experimental families and 1,305 control families


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families with child abuse/neglect reports.

Location/Institution: Minnesota

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examined the efficacy of Alternative Response (AR) [now called Family Assessment Response (FAR)]. Families in 14 Minnesota counties were randomly assigned to received AR services or standard Child Protective Services (CPS) services following a report of abuse or neglect. Measures utilized include the Structured Decision Making (SDM) Family Risk Assessment instrument and administrative data from the Minnesota Social Services Information System (SSIS). Results indicate that AR families showed significantly greater improvements in overall safety and did not differ from standard service families in number of new abuse reports. AR families were also rated as more cooperative by caseworkers and families reported being more satisfied with their treatment. Limitations include generalizability to population other than families with child abuse and neglect reports and lack of follow-up data.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: Not specified.

Additional References

Johnson, C., Sutton, E. S., & Thompson, D. (2005). Child welfare reform in Minnesota. Protecting Children, 20(2/3), 55-60.

Loman, L. A., & Siegel, G. L. (2005). Alternative Response in Minnesota: Findings of the program evaluation. Protecting Children, 20(2/3), 78-92.

Sawyer, R., & Lohrbach (2005). Differential Response in Child Protection: Selecting a pathway. Protecting Children, 20(2/3), 62-77.

Contact Information

Title: Child Safety and Permanency Division
Agency/Affiliation: Minnesota Department of Human Services
Department: Child Safety and Prevention Unit
Phone: (651) 431-4660
Fax: (651) 431-7522

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2008