Grandparent Family Connections (GFC)

About This Program

Target Population: Grandparent-headed household families at risk for child maltreatment

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

GFC is a multifaceted, community-based service program that works with grandparent-headed households (GHH) in their homes and in the context of their neighborhoods to help them meet the basic needs of the children in their care and prevent child maltreatment. Nine practice principles guide GFC interventions:

  • Ecological developmental framework
  • Community outreach
  • Individualized family assessment and tailored interventions
  • Helping alliance
  • Empowerment principles
  • Strengths-based practice
  • Cultural competence
  • Outcome-driven service plans with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals
  • A focus on the competence of the practitioner

Individualized family interventions are tailored to address the special needs of GHH and geared to increase protective factors, decrease risk factors, and target child safety, well-being, and permanency outcomes.

Program Goals

The goals of Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) are:

  • Help families meet the basic needs of their children
  • Reduce the risk of child maltreatment

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Grandparent Family Connections (GFC).

Essential Components

The essential components of Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) include:

  • Overview of service delivery for families:
    • Intake and screening
    • Outreach and engagement
    • Emergency assistance/concrete services
    • Comprehensive family assessment including the use of standardized assessment instruments
    • Outcome drive plans with goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART)
  • Change-focused intervention:
    • Minimum of 1 hour per week of home-based purposeful change-focused intervention
    • Advocacy/service facilitation of community interventions to support families to achieve outcomes and SMART goals
    • Case plan evaluation/progress assessment (at least every 90 days after the initial case plan
    • Case closure
  • GFC philosophical principles used in the delivery of services:
    • Community outreach
    • Family assessment
    • Individualized, tailored intervention
    • Helping alliance
    • Empowerment approaches
    • Strengths perspective
    • Cultural competence
    • Developmental appropriateness
    • Outcome-driven service plans
  • GFC practitioner activities:
    • Uses, at a minimum, screening criteria that indicate a risk of maltreatment based on the original screening criteria or based on locally determined risk factors of child maltreatment
    • Initiates the therapeutic relationship through face-to-face contact with the family within one business day of acceptance into the GFC program
    • Is assigned to work with the qualified family on an ongoing basis
    • Provides at least one hour of face-to-face GFC services to families at least once per week for at least three months
    • Provides most GFC services in the community, meeting families where they live
    • Uses standardized clinical assessment instruments to guide the identification of risk and protective factors associated with child maltreatment as part of the comprehensive family assessment
    • Provides emergency/concrete services to address initial basic needs (e.g. food, clothing, utilities, etc.) and additional needs on an ongoing basis, as needed
    • Conducts comprehensive family assessments to guide the service delivery process
    • Develops outcome-driven service plans geared to decrease risk and increase protective factors associated with child maltreatment
    • Delivers tailored and direct therapeutic services to help families reduce risks, maximize protective factors, and achieve service outcomes and goals
    • Advocates on behalf of families in the community and facilitates services delivery by other organizations/individuals
  • GFC program leadership activities:
    • Implements an assessment of individual and organizational readiness and assessment of organizational culture and climate
    • Tailors the intervention manual with state/local policies and procedures including link to information systems
    • Develops and employs an implementation leadership team
    • Develops and implements an implementation work-plan
    • Forms and utilizes a community advisory committee that incorporates consumer input
    • Implements a process for evaluation of client change over time and at case closing
    • Self-evaluation of fidelity and use of results to implement improvement strategies

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Externalizing and internalizing behaviors, inconsistent school attendance, problems/symptoms that result from the child’s history of being a victim of abuse and neglect, being exposed to domestic violence, and/or living in unstable and chaotic households

Parent/Caregiver Services

Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Poor household conditions; financial stress; inadequate social support; parenting stress and poor parenting attitudes; unsafe caregiver/child interactions; poor family functioning; poor adult functioning (e.g., mental health problems/substance abuse) that impacts parenting; poor family resources; issues specific to grandparent-headed households such as the challenges of providing long-term care, managing complex legal situations, intergenerational strain with extended family, role ambiguity, and increased psychological distress, social isolation, depression and deteriorating health
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The program actively engages extended family members in service provision for the support to the caregiver or child. GFC often engages other community supports to access legal counsel, medical needs, counseling services, adequate education resources, housing resources, access to food, and church affiliations. Grandparent caregiver households often experience social isolation that includes the community and family.

Recommended Intensity:

A minimum of one hour of face-to-face contact between the social worker and clients weekly

Recommended Duration:

3-6 months with an optional 90-day extension, if needed

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home
  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Trained social worker with an interest in community-based interventions
  • Office space
  • Computer and printer
  • Transportation for meeting clients in their homes and in other community settings
  • Emergency/concrete needs fund
  • Weekly individual and group supervision
  • Strategies to address secondary traumatic stress

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Master's level worker or Bachelor's level worker supervised by a staff member with a Master's degree or higher

Manual Information

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

Program Manual(s)

DePanfilis, D. (2015). Family Connections intervention manual. (7th Ed.). Baltimore: University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Please email Diane DePanfilis at

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Onsite at replicating agency, delivered by a GFC training and technical assistance team affiliated with ACTION for Child Protection

Number of days/hours:

Determined individually for each site based on needs. Most replicating programs begin with a 1-day orientation training, then supervisors are trained for 4 days (2 days, Practicum, 2 days), followed by social workers with their supervisors for 5 days (Phase I –1 day, Practicum, Phase II–2 days, Practicum, Phase III-2 days). Follow-up technical assistance and coaching is highly recommended usually targeting supervisors to build local capacity.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Sharpe, T., DePanfilis, D., Strieder, F., & Gregory, G. (2009). Replication of Family Connections: Lessons learned from grandparents. Protecting Children, 24(3), 58-68.

Type of Study: Qualitative study using semistructured interviews
Number of Participants: 16


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Primarily African American
  • Gender — Primarily Female
  • Status — Participants were grandparent caregivers who had completed the Grandparent Family Connections program.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this article was to explore which interventions of the Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) program were the most helpful from the perspective of grandparent participants. The measure was a semistructured interview guide designed to discover insights about each participant's perceptions of the GFC program, the quality of services they received, and the strategies they used to manage stressors that coincided with caring for themselves and their grandchildren. Results suggest that grandparent caregivers benefit from programs that provide opportunities to engage in activities with other grandparents, promote the continuity of those relationships, focus on the well-being of the caregiver, and assist in meeting concrete needs (e.g., housing, food).

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Filene, J. H., Brodowski, M. L., & Bell, J. (2014). Using cost analysis to examine variability in replications of an efficacious child neglect prevention program. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 8(4), 375-396.

Lindsey, M. A., Hayward, R. A., & DePanfilis, D. (2010). Gender differences in behavioral outcomes among children at risk of neglect: Findings from a family-focused prevention intervention. Research on Social Work Practice, 20(6), 572-581.

Contact Information

Diane DePanfilis, PhD, MSW
Title: Professor
Agency/Affiliation: Hunter College
Department: Silberman School of Social Work
Phone: (917) 435-2296

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: March 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: March 2020

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: March 2017