Methods: The study employed data from a sample of 509 families who were in contact with the U.S. child welfare system drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW). Descriptive statistics are presented to explore the extent of nonresident fathers' inclusion in child welfare services including case planning, goal setting, and referrals. Correlates of nonresident fathers' inclusion in child welfare services and correlates of children's behavior problems were examined using logistic regression models. Multiple imputation was used to address missing data.
Results: A minority of nonresident fathers are included in case planning and goal setting, but receive referrals at a similar rate as mothers. Although their inclusion is linked to whether or not they play a care giver role, the provision of child support is not related to fathers' participation in any of the services examined in this study. Step parents' inclusion in services is related to Step parents inclusion in case planning and goal setting, reduced the likelihood that the non-resident father was included in these services. Grandparents inclusion in case planning, however, increased the likelihood. Although fathers' inclusion in services and progress toward goals were not related to children's behavior problems, child support payment reduced the likelihood of behavior problems at 18-month follow-up and his participation as a caregiver was associated with a reduced risk for behavior problems at 36 months.
Conclusions & Implications: These findings suggestion that the contributions of nonresident fathers in the context of child welfare are meaningful for children's behavioral health, but that inclusion in services is not associated with improved outcomes for children. When it comes to the provision of child welfare services to nonresident fathers it appears that the care giving role makes a difference, rather than the provision of child support or breadwinning role. However, both care giving and bread winning are linked to more positive outcomes for children. These results also suggest that some caseworkers may tend to be inclusive of a broader range of relatives in general (i.e. grandparents and nonresident fathers), but that step parents represent a special case whereby the role of the nonresident father is "replaced" with a new father figure.