Effectiveness of the Teaching-Family Model

The Boys Town Family Home Program® has the same origins as the Teaching-Family Model (Phillips, Phillips, Fixsen, & Wolf, 1974), with adaptations over the years resulting from ongoing evaluation, research, and continuous quality improvement (Thompson & Daly, 2015). Over 500 articles have been published on Boys Town programs, including more than 80 papers about Boys Town’s adaptations of the Teaching-Family Model. More information can be found in Boys Town’s Research Bibliography.

  • Within the relatively sparse literature on group homes, there is some evidence that some models of treatment may be associated with more positive outcomes for youth. This article, by Farmer, E. M. Z., Seifert, H., Wagner, H. R., Burns, B. J., and Murray, M., explores this possibility by examining differences across time for youth served in group homes utilizing the Teaching Family Model (TFM) and geographically proximate homes using more eclectic approaches. Journal of Emotional Behavioral Disorders, 2017 June, 119-128. Epub 2016 March.

  • This article (2017) proposes and examines a parsimonious framework for assessing quality in therapeutic residential care. Elizabeth M. Z. Farmer, PhD, Maureen L. Murray, MSW, LSCW, Kess Ballentine, MEd, Mary Elizabeth Rauktix, PhD, and Barbara J Burns, PhD utilize a synthesized conceptual framework that includes four potentially critical domains of quality: setting, staffing, safety, and treatment. Data from a recently completed quasi-experimental study of group homes were used to examine prevalence of various key indicators within each of these domains and to explore relationships between these indicators and youth-level outcomes. Beyond this most basic level, utilization of an evidence-informed model (in this case, the teaching family model) was associated with better outcomes. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Volume: 25 issue: 1, page(s): 28-36, March 1, 2017. Epub 2017, January 12.

Teaching-Family Model In-Home Services

Families First has existing published research studies which together may meet the requirements for “well-supported” under the definition of FFPSA’s evidence-based criteria:

  • A randomized controlled study of Families First by Robert Lewis, PhD, in 1995 which shows several sustained effects at six months. Lewis, R. E. (2005). The effectiveness of Families First services: An experimental study. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 499–509.

  • A 2007 randomized controlled study regarding suicide prevention by Doug Gray, MD, in which Families First was the primary treatment component, demonstrating a sustained effect at six months. Gray, D., Dawson, K. L., Grey, T. C., & McMahon, W. M. (2011). The Utah Youth Suicide Study: Best practices for suicide prevention through the juvenile court system. Psychiatric Services, 62(12), 1416–1418.    

  • A quasi-experimental study of Families First by Jacob Hess, PhD, indicating several sustained effects of 12 months regarding recidivism/child well-being. Hess, J. Z., Arner, W., Skyes, E., Price, A. G., & Tanana, M. (2012). Helping juvenile offenders on their own turf: Tracking the recidivism outcomes of a home-based intervention. OJDDP Journal of Juvenile Justice, 2(1).

Effective Organizational Change and Positive Social Impact via the Teaching-Family Model

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) has widely demonstrated its utility for improving performance in organizations. Yet, OBM researchers and practitioners have called for developing more comprehensive and systemic approaches for creating long-term improvements and improving marketability. A successful program in ABA, called the Teaching-Family Model, may provide useful ideas for OBM. Lessons from the development of the Teaching-Family Model suggest that OBM may benefit from further research on the components of OBM programs to clarify those that are essential, identifying strategies to engage and coach leaders and sustain the program, and creating a supportive system to establish and maintain high fidelity use of the programs as they are scaled and disseminated. Ideas for next steps and future research are discussed.

The Teaching-Family Model is an elegant example of how effective practices can be implemented at a scale of significant social impact. In recounting their journey through the development, replication, and diffusion of the Teaching-Family Model, Fixsen and Blase describe how effective and sustained change was achieved at scale. Their story affirms that the design of effective and supportive environments is possible and replicable, and we gain lessons on how to establish systems to improve quality of life in community, home, employment,...