Project Connect

About This Program

Target Population: High-risk, substance-affected families involved in the child welfare system that may experience poly-substance abuse and dependence, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, criminal involvement and behavior, poverty, inappropriate housing, lack of education, poor employment skills, impaired parenting, low household income, or single parent household

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

Project Connect works with high-risk families who are affected by parental substance abuse and are involved in the child welfare system. The program offers home-based counseling, substance abuse monitoring, nursing, and referrals for other services. The program also offers home-based parent education, parenting groups, and an ongoing support group for mothers in recovery.

Program Goals

The goals for Project Connect are:

  • Maintaining children safely in their homes
  • Facilitating reunification when children have been placed in out-of-home care

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Project Connect.

Essential Components

The essential components of Project Connect include:

  • Family-Centered, Community-Based Services:
    • Staff members focus on encouraging families to use their strengths to work on the concerns in their lives.
    • The program works to connect families with, and help them to manage, the larger systems in their lives (e.g., schools; courts; child welfare systems; treatment programs for substance abuse, mental health issues, medical problems, and domestic violence; homeless shelters; Social Security; AFDC, etc.).
    • Staff members work within these systems to advocate for families and to empower families to overcome the barriers to effective functioning.
  • Enhancing Parent/Child Relationships; Decreasing Parental Substance Abuse and Dependence:
    • The program developed the Risk Inventory for Substance Abuse-Affected Families to assist in determining the level of risk and service needs for the families. There are eight scales that measure the following:
      • Commitment to recovery
      • Patterns of use
      • Effect on childrearing
      • Effect on lifestyle
      • Supports for recovery
      • Parent's self-efficacy
      • Parent's self-care
      • Neighborhood safety
    • Visits to the family can take place in the family's primary place of residence, in the community, or at the office, based on the family's needs.
    • Group parenting sessions are offered to families to improve specific parenting skills.
    • Follow-up visits at the home encourage the application of new skills.
    • Parent/child groups work to enhance the attachment and bond between adults and children.
    • Frequent recreational events are held in order to support and encourage positive interactions, and for families to have fun safely.
    • Observed visitation provides opportunities to offer feedback to the parent and the child when appropriate. This visitation also provides opportunities for collaterals to best determine service needs.
    • The program works to enhance communication between foster parents and biological parents, in order to provide consistency and continuity of care for the children.
    • In order to facilitate effective communication and interventions, family-driven case conferencing occurs frequently between various providers and family members.
    • Individual supportive counseling is offered on a weekly basis to address individual issues and develop problem-solving strategies.
    • The program helps families overcome barriers by providing concrete services. These services include:
      • Using the program's emergency assistance fund
      • Providing transportation when necessary by cabs and/or program van
      • Making referrals for service linkage

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Project Connect directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Parental substance abuse, neglect, abuse

Parent/Caregiver Services

Project Connect directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Substance abuse and dependence, mental health problems, parent/child relationship concerns

Recommended Intensity:

On average, two 1-hour visits a week; the intensity is determined by the family's needs and the level of risk to the children. Home/community visits are completed by a combination of primary worker, nurse, parent educator, and group/recreational events determined by the needs of the family.

Recommended Duration:

Program services last an average of 13 months for families that complete the program.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home
  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Office space
  • Transportation

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

A Master's degree in social work, or a related field, and experience with at-risk families. A Bachelor's degree with extensive experience with at-risk, substance abuse-affected families, and/or those with child welfare involvement may also be acceptable.

The clinical supervisor of the program should be a master’s level human services professional with supervisory experience and experience with at-risk families. A clinical substance abuse or social work license is preferred.

The manager should be a master’s level human services professional, license preferred with supervisory and management experience of at-risk families.

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:


Number of days/hours:


Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Project Connect.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Project Connect as listed below:

As part of the training package, implementation assistance is included in the form of technical support. The formal support varies depending on the needs of the provider community. For example, one site had monthly case and program consultation with the Project Connect team via phone and then a follow-up site visit after the first year. Another site is receiving ongoing training via a Webinar format. A third site has received technical support via review of their RFA, a pre-training forum, and recently, they sent a joint provider/child welfare team to Rhode Island to see Project Connect operationalized.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Project Connect as listed below:

The Project Connect Fidelity Measurement process is divided into two different but connected elements.

  • The first is a functional assessment which is more subjective (i.e., observation, description, opinion) in nature of the model components of teamwork, relationship, and modeling.
  • The second is a mostly objective (more likely based on true facts) measurement of the model components of structural fidelity, procedural fidelity, and family engagement.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Project Connect as listed below:

The guide includes the philosophy, instruments, and fidelity measures needed to implement this model.

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Project Connect.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Project Connect.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

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

Olsen, L. J. (1995). Services for substance abuse-affected families: The Project Connect experience. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 12(3), 183–196.

Type of Study: Pretest–posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: Children: 176; Adults: 66


  • Age — Children: 0–12 years; Adults: 19–38 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children and Adults: 39% White, 30% African American, 20% Hispanic, and 11% Other
  • Gender — Children: Not Specified; Adults: Mostly Female
  • Status — Participants were families identified for abuse and neglect by Child Welfare and who had an identified parental substance abuse problem.

Location/Institution: Rhode Island

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to describe one community-based program, Project Connect, designed to support and strengthen families with an identified problem of substance abuse. Participant data from families receiving the Project Connect program was compared to data from families not receiving it, but who also had identified parental substance abuse problems. Measures utilized include the Family Risk Scales and study developed measures that assessed client satisfaction. Results indicate that the majority of parents made steady progress on service plan goals related to substance abuse and in the substance abuse treatment programs to which they had been referred. With an average progress score of 3.4 on a five-point scale at their third service plan review; parents had, on average, made moderate progress in addressing their substance abuse problems. Limitations include the lack of randomization, the use of study developed measures, and attrition during the study.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

The following studies were not included in rating Project Connect on the Scientific Rating Scale...

Olsen, L. J., Laprade, V., & Holmes, W. M. (2015). Supports for families affected by substance abuse. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 9(5), 551–570.

The purpose of the study was to present the evaluation of the Project Connect program following the state-wide expansion of services. Measures utilized include the North Carolina Family Assessment Scale (NCFAS) and the Risk Inventory for Substance Abuse-Affected Families (SARI). Results indicate that the program was particularly helpful in strengthening parenting capacity. Child safety and permanency were also positively correlated with program participation. Limitations include the lack of randomization, no control group, findings may not fully generalize under different implementation conditions, and missing data. Note: This article was not used in the rating process due to the lack of a control group.

Additional References

Azzi-Lessing, L. J., & Olsen, L. (1996) Substance abuse-affected families in the child welfare system: New Challenges, New Alliances. Social Work, 41(1), 15–23.

Mumm, A. M., Olsen, L. J., & Allen, D. (1998). Families affected by substance abuse: Implications for generalist social work practice. Families and Society, 79(4), 384–394.

Olsen, L. J., Allen, D., & Azzi-Lessing, L. (1996). Assessing risk in families affected by substance abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 20(9), 833–842.

Contact Information

Rachel Cooper
Title: Director of Programs
Agency/Affiliation: Children’s Friend
Phone: (401) 276-4373
Fax: (401) 331-3285

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: January 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2006