Degree Granting Department
Foster Care, Length of Stay, Out-of-Home Care, Parent Engagement, Reentry
The vast majority of child maltreatment in the United States is perpetrated by parents and over half of maltreated children placed in out-of-home care are reunified with the parents from which they were removed. Additional victimization of these children sometimes necessitates their reentry into out-of-home care. These realities emphasize the need to engage parents in assessment, planning, and services throughout the life of a child welfare case. Engagement is a key ingredient in social work practice and is widely accepted in the child protection arena as critical to successful service planning and participation. However, little research has focused on the relationship between engaging parents and child welfare case outcomes. Utilizing data systematically collected by the Florida Department of Children and Families as part of its quality assurance program, this study examined the relationship between case worker efforts to engage parents in case planning, decisions impacting the child, and services; and the length of a child's stay in out-of-home care related to being discharged within 12 months of entering out-of-home care, and a child's reentry into out-of-home care within 12 months of being reunified with his or her parents. Cox regression analyses revealed that Hispanic children were less likely to be discharged from out-of-home care within 12 months of entry and younger children were more likely to reenter out-of-home care within 12 months of being reunified with their parents. Multivariate models revealed that case worker efforts to engage fathers in case planning and decisions impacting the child were significant predictors of children being discharged from out-of-home care within 12 months of entry, though this did not hold true for efforts to engage mothers. No case worker efforts to engage parents were significant predictors of children reentering out-of-home care within 12 months of being reunified with their parents. Although this study took an important step in more fully understanding how engaging parents may influence case outcomes, the findings suggest considerations for social work practice and research. Additional training to enhance cultural awareness and cultural competency skills could aid case workers in tailoring their engagement efforts to the race/ethnicity of children and families with whom they work. Further research into the lack of association between engaging mothers and length of stay, and between engaging parents and reentry into out-of-home care is also warranted. Quantitatively measuring engagement from the parents' perspective should also advance the line of inquiry into the relationship between engagement and child welfare case outcomes.
Scholar Commons Citation
Sharrock, Patty, "Efforts to Engage Parents and Case Outcomes in the Child Welfare System" (2013). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.