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Changing Lives, In a Family’s Own Home

A Unique In-Home Intervention

Families First is Utah’s premier evidence-based, in-home, skill-based intervention designed to teach parents and youth skills to change the unwanted behaviors occurring in the home, and to improve family functioning. Families First seeks to promote child safety, child permanency, child well-being and adult well-being.

In addition to contracted referrals from Utah Juvenile Courts, Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), Juvenile Justice Services (JJS)- and insurance companies, many of the referrals we receive are from healthy families who are simply looking for more effective ways to communicate and impact their children and their behaviors.

Families First


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How it Works

A Families First Specialist goes into the family’s home for approximately 8 hours per week, initially. This may vary based on family needs, referral source and concerns, and individual scheduling.

On average, the Specialist is in the home for 10-12 weeks and becomes an ally of the parents and a mentor to the family, teaching proven methods of replacing unwanted behaviors with desirable ones. Parents are taught how to maintain discipline without anger or violence. Accountability, positive social skills, effective communication, and ways to effectively set and maintain boundaries are also taught.

The Specialist uses positive reinforcement, modeling, role playing, and other methods that are designed specifically to instill effective and lasting parenting and communication skills, while also teaching complementary social skills to the children to help reduce unwanted behaviors.

At the conclusion of the in-home period, the Family can elect to have the Specialist continue on in a supporting role, remaining available 24 hours a day for the next year.  If a parent/family choses this additional service, the Specialist will “follow up” with the family at designated intervals to make sure the skills and tools they’ve learned are continuing to be utilized, to track success, and to identify possible challenges.

Who We Serve

The children in the families we serve often have a variety of behavioral and/or emotional problems. Some have been diagnosed with mental illness, some are struggling with school behaviors, some are simply ungovernable, and others are reacting poorly to dysfunctional environments and have just not learned skills that will help them be successful.

Many families live at or below the poverty level and are struggling to find jobs, housing, clothing, and food for their children, while others face complications from exorbitant circumstances.

All of these families have the common desire to change behaviors, learn new ways of interacting, and to create more peace and harmony in their homes

The Families First program now provides services in every county in Utah. Utah Youth Village serves nearly 500 families each year and over 2,000 individuals through the Families First program.

How We Measure Success

As an evidence-based program that is accredited by the Teaching Family Association and Council on Accreditation, Families First has clearly defined practice guidelines with written protocols, manuals and documentation that is replicable.

Fidelity is demonstrated through a rigorous, defined and documented accreditation process with the Teaching-Family Association. Additionally, the use of an annual consumer evaluation system demonstrates that Families First has a very high level of client satisfaction with the program and its services.

Consumer Satisfaction

Learning and implementing new skills:

82% of families “successfully completed FF” This meaning the families learned, used, and independently implemented the skills taught by Families First Specialists.

12% of families were rated as having “participated” in Families First. This meaning families received positive benefits and saw improvements, but didn’t implement the skills on an independent basis.

6% of families were rated as “not complete.” This meaning Families First ended the service due to families not meeting regularly, canceling appointments, etc.

Average duration was 13 weeks.

Averaged a 25 point decrease in pre/post Y-OQ scores. This measures the parents perceptions of the seriousness of their child(ren) behaviors. A -13 point decrease is considered “clinically significant.”

Our Numbers:

Over the past three years,

  • 82% of families successfully completed the Families First program, meaning they learned, used, and independently implemented the skills they had been taught.
  • Y-OQ scores decreased by an average of -25 points between the start and end of the program. Youth Outcome Questionnaires (Y-OQs) measure the parent’s perception of the seriousness of their child(ren)’s behaviors. A -13 point decrease is considered clinically significant.
  • On a 1 to 4 scale, parents gave an average rating of 3.84 when scoring how they felt about whether or not the program helped them meet their goals.
  • On a 1 to 4 scale, parents gave an average rating of 3.93 when scoring how supported they felt by Families First staff.

Consumer Ratings

Parents rated:

Question Score Favorable  %
Were your goals accomplished?  3.84 96%
Was Specialist pleasant?  3.97 99%
Were you supported?  3.93 98%
Did you learn skills that mattered?  3.91 98%
Was Specialist professional?  3.92 98%

Agency Consumers rated:

Question Score Favorable  %
Achieving Goals  3.71 93%
Cooperation  3.89 97%
Communication  3.84 96%
Pleasantness  3.83 96%

Referral Forms and Questions

Juvenile Court Referral Form

*Please see your Chief Probation Officer as there is a “statewide” referral form used by the Juvenile Courts.

Sliding Fee Form

DCFS/SOC Referral Form

*To be used as an example. The actual referral form can be found in Your Google Drive in the “contract” folder with the sub-folder “in-home parenting

Families First Information

For More Information

Families First is available to the public and fees are determined on a sliding scale basis. Some insurance companies and State agencies also provide coverage. For more information, browse the links above, or contact Wayne Arner at [email protected] or call (801) 272-9980.

Families First Program Evaluation and Research

2021 The Families First Program Impact on Child Maltreatment: Evaluation Report, University of Utah

2020 Families First Outcome Evaluation, Wind River Research

2019 Evidence-based Correctional Program Checklist (CPC) Evaluation, Utah State Courts

2020 Families First Survey Analysis, Wind River Research

Families First Program Rating by the California Evidence-based Clearinghouse

Robert E. Lewis Study, The effectiveness of Families First services

Garrett L. Smith Study, Evidence-based Suicide Prevention for Juvenile Offenders

Jacob Z. Hess Study, Tracking Recidivism Outcomes of a Home-based Paraprofessional Intervention

2016 Evidence-based Correctional Program Checklist (CPC) Evaluation, Utah State Courts

2014 Evidence-based Correctional Program Checklist (CPC) Evaluation, University of Utah

2012 Evidence-based Correctional Program Checklist, Utah State Courts