In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section In-home Child Welfare Services

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Texts
  • Journals
  • Specialized Organizations

Social Work In-home Child Welfare Services
Miriam Landsman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0301


In-home services represent a wide range of approaches to supporting and strengthening families that child welfare agencies implement to achieve the important outcomes of child and family well-being, safety, and permanency. In-home services are an essential component of the child welfare service system, but often receive less explicit attention in child welfare practice and research than other system components such as foster care, adoption, and child protective investigation. In-home services have been known by different terms over time, from services to children in their own homes, home-based, family-based, or family-centered services, family preservation, or others. Child welfare service systems differ considerably across states and localities, and in-home services probably demonstrate the highest degree of variability in target population, design, and implementation. New federal legislation, the Family First Prevention Services Act (2018), has renewed interest in in-home services. Family First creates mechanisms for states to access federal Title IV-E funds, the primary funding stream for foster care, to use for preventive services, but it also requires that these services demonstrate a sufficiently high level of research evidence of their effectiveness. With increasing emphasis on evidence-based practice, the field is challenged to implement programs and practices that demonstrate efficacy as well as practicality within the budgetary and bureaucratic constraints of public child welfare systems. This bibliography reflects a changing landscape for in-home services. The focus is on specific program models, and the extant evidence base of these models. Most are used with families who are receiving in-home services because the child welfare agency opened a service case due to an allegation of child maltreatment with the goal of preventing repeat maltreatment or the child’s removal from home. Some jurisdictions also use in-home services, including some of the specific program models described in this bibliography, prior to a report of child maltreatment, during the assessment or investigative process, or as part of an aftercare program to facilitate family reunification following a placement. Some attention is also given to in-home child welfare services provided when a child’s behavior, rather than the parent’s, poses a risk for removal. Included in this review are differential response systems, which numerous states have implemented to provide in-home services earlier and without formally opening a child welfare case; however, home visiting and family support programs of a more primary prevention nature are excluded from this review.

Introductory Works

In-home services are an important part of a child welfare service array, and McGowan 2014 provides an overview of the historical development of child welfare services and the role of in-home services within this historical context. Nelson, et al. 1990 describes three models of placement prevention, an early focus of in-home services. Berry and McLean 2014 examines the concept of Family Connections, which is at the heart of family preservation. Although most recipients of child welfare services are families and children at home, Fuller and Nieto 2014 shows how little is known about the effectiveness of these services. Landsman 2015 introduces factors influencing the trajectory of in-home child welfare services, and D’Aunno, et al. 2014 presents core elements of in-home services derived from an extensive review of research.

  • Berry, M., and S. McLean. 2014. Family preservation. In child welfare for the twenty-first century. A handbook of practices, policies, and programs. Edited by G. P. Mallon and P. M. Hess, 270–287. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.7312/mall15180-014

    This chapter presents an overview of the development of family preservation in child welfare practice, and key concepts underlying the goal of preserving connections between children, parents, and extended family. Specific service models and promising approaches supported by empirical evidence are described, as well as implications for preparing professionals working in this area of child welfare.

  • D’Aunno, L. E., S. Boel-Studt, and M. J. Landsman. 2014. Evidence-based elements of child welfare in-home services. Journal of Family Strengths 14.1: 1–44.

    As part of a nationwide assessment of in-home child welfare services conducted by the US Children’s Bureau-funded National Resource Center for In-Home Services, Center staff conducted an extensive review of research literature to provide guidance to state and tribal child welfare agencies in implementing their in-home services. This review identified core elements of effective in-home services that emerged across multiple studies.

  • Fuller, T., and M. Nieto. 2014. Child welfare services and risk of child maltreatment rereports: Do services ameliorate initial risk? Children and Youth Services Review 47:46–54.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.11.015

    Using propensity score matching to compare two groups of families similar in their likelihood of receiving child welfare services, families who received services had a higher likelihood of a subsequent maltreatment report over a two-year period. This study highlights that although most children served by the child welfare system are at home, little is known about the services they and their families receive and the effectiveness of these services.

  • Landsman, M. J. 2015. The changing landscape of in-home child welfare services. In Special issue: Building the evidence base for in-home child welfare services. Edited by M. J. Landsman. Journal of Public Child Welfare 9.5: 417–422.

    DOI: 10.1080/15548732.2015.1116337

    This is an introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Public Child Welfare focusing on in-home child welfare services. Compared with other child welfare system components, in-home services have struggled to establish their legitimacy as a core child welfare component. In-home services demonstrate a high degree of variability in target population, design, and implementation; the articles in this special issue illustrate this variability.

  • McGowan, B. G. 2014. Historical evolution of child welfare services. In Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies, & programs. Edited by G. P. Mallon and P. M. Hess, 11–44. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.7312/mall15180-002

    This book chapter provides an overview of the history and development of child welfare services in the United States, including federal child welfare legislation through 2008.

  • Nelson, K. E., M. J. Landsman, and W. Deutelbaum. 1990. Three models of family-centered placement prevention services. Child Welfare 69.1: 3–21.

    An early framework for conceptualizing family-centered placement prevention services, this article identified three distinct models of family-centered placement prevention programs: crisis intervention, home-based, and family treatment. The article presents prototypical program examples of each model, including the history, theory, base, and practice methods.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.