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 maltreatment (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] is one of two responses for an accepted child maltreatment report as part of the Minnesota Child Protection Response Continuum. This continuum covers a range of responses from the Parent Support Outreach Program, a statewide voluntary early intervention outreach offer of supports and services to families at risk of future child protection involvement (no accepted report yet), to the Family Investigation Response, which is for more serious reports of child maltreatment (e.g., sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, child endangerment). FAR falls in the middle of this continuum and was formerly named Alternative Response. FAR is for families that don't require a traditional investigative approach and are best served through an approach that offers support and assistance.

Minnesota’s public child welfare system is committed to, and guided by, the following values and principles:

  • 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.
  • Partnership: Families, communities, and the child welfare system are primary and essential partners in creating and supporting meaningful connections in a safe and nurturing environment for children and youth.
  • Respectful Engagement: Children, youth and families are best served when public child welfare staff actively listen to them and invite participation in decision making. Respectful engagement includes understanding and honoring of the family’s history, culture and traditions, as well as empowering them to meet their unique and individual needs through utilization of family strengths, and educating them regarding the child welfare process.
  • Organizational Competence: Minnesota’s public child welfare agencies will perform as high quality organizations, guided by a clear mission, priorities and resource allocation with committed, qualified, trained and skilled staff and providers applying evidence informed practices.
  • Professional Competence: The professional competence of Minnesota’s public child welfare system will be demonstrated by a workforce that: proactively responds to the evolving needs of communities, is knowledgeable of the historical context within which the child welfare system operates, provides respectful treatment to families, and continually strives for professional excellence through critical self-examination.
  • Cultural Competence: Cultural competence is achieved through understanding and serving children, youth, and families within a context of each unique family and community. This includes, but is not limited to, families’ beliefs, values, race, ethnicity, history, tribe, culture, religion and language.
  • Accountability: The child welfare system holds itself accountable to the highest standards of practice. It recognizes its responsibilities to children, youth, families and other stakeholders to assess and manage its performance, self-correct, innovate and enhance its ability to achieve positive outcomes through continuous improvement efforts. The system also recognizes the need for its practices, service delivery and performance to be easily understood, evaluated, and open to feedback from stakeholders.
  • Safety: Child safety is paramount and best achieved by supporting parents within their community.
  • 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 and communities meeting their physical, mental, behavioral health, educational and cultural needs.

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.

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.
  • Avoiding Negative Labels for Parents: Social services agencies have the flexibility to apply a response that best matches a family's needs. Often, families will benefit more from a Family Assessment than a traditional child protection response. Sometimes, however, parents are not able to keep from endangering their children, this is when a traditional child protection investigation and services are needed to keep kids safe.
  • Setting Aside Fault Finding: There is no formal determination of maltreatment in a Family Assessment. Focusing on the broader picture of the family, rather than what brought them into the system allows the family and the social worker to focus on what's right and build on those assets. Families are more than the problem being identified. Search for competence rather than defining the family by the problems they are experiencing.
  • Working in Partnership with Parents: Workers approach families in a non-adversarial way (including not conducting the assessment with law enforcement). Not all families have all the strengths and knowledge to solve all the problems that confront them over time. Collaboration between social workers and families increases the likelihood of finding solutions to the areas of need. It is strongly recommended that the worker who conducts the initial assessment with the family continues to work with the family during the case management phase if the case is open for ongoing services.
  • Identifying Families Needs: Social workers are encouraged to meet with the family as a whole, rather than interviewing the child and parent(s) separately. Listen to the family's story, it provides information on what worked, what didn't work, and their perception of the problem.
  • 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 individual and community 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.

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.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Home


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.

Education 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.

Education and Training Resources

There is not a manual that describes how to implement this program ; but there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

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, 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 comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Families in 14 Minnesota counties were randomly assigned to received Alternative Response (AR) [now called Family Assessment Response (FAR)] services or standard Child Protective Services (CPS) services following a report of abuse or neglect. Analysis found that FAR families showed significantly greater improvements in overall safety and did not differ from standard service families in number of new abuse reports. FAR families were also rated as more cooperative by caseworkers and families reported being more satisfied with their treatment.

Length of 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: September 2016

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2008