Thursday, January 11, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Marquis BR Salon 7 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Melissa Radey, PhD, Florida State University
Child welfare, one of the most challenging areas of social service work, is charged with protecting and serving vulnerable children and families facing maltreatment allegations. Child welfare stakeholders including children, caregivers, and workers face vulnerability, often in setting and communities with limited resources. Children in the system frequently encounter obstacles across multiple domains including behavior, education, economic, health, and mental health. Caregivers often struggle with economic resources, trauma, and children's behavior problems. Workers, meanwhile, typically face job unpredictability, high job demands, high caseloads, long work hours, low salaries, and high emotional tolls. Extensive empirical evidence indicates that people, regardless of child welfare involvement, handle life's challenges more successfully with support from others. Relationships and support, however, may be particularly vital to child, caregiver, and worker success to achieve child welfare system goals for children. For example, social support promotes long-term health and protects caregivers and children from economic and emotional hardship. For workers, they often rely on instrumental support from their agencies to complete job tasks. Given social support's importance, studies in this symposium use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to consider the prevalence and role of social support among child welfare stakeholders including workers, caregivers, and children. The symposium provides the opportunity to consider social support among various stakeholders and operationalized in various ways impact those involved in the child welfare system. Together, findings provide a convincing story of social support's merits. For children in care, caregiver support and agency support are central elements for protecting children from perpetrators, meeting children's needs, and preparing youth aging out for economic and emotional survival. Child welfare workers also benefit from workplace support in order to meet caseload demands and promote client wellbeing. In addition to providing fundamental resources to families and workers, high levels of community social support relate to fewer reports of child maltreatment. Together, these studies point to the importance of individual and community social support and their potential to work in tandem with formal services to promote child safety and family well-being. The symposium will include a discussion of factors to consider when measuring social support characteristics of child welfare stakeholders, including type (e.g., instrumental, emotional), source (e.g., family, caregiver, agency), and recipient (e.g., worker, child, community) as well as strategies to increase support among child welfare stakeholders and the surrounding community. The overview of social support's importance across various entities coupled with illustrations collected throughout the US will provide participants the opportunity to consider social support's potential in designing interventions and promoting success in the child welfare system among children, caregivers, and workers.
* noted as presenting author
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