Abstract: Developmental Services for Young Maltreated Children: Influences on Interventionists' Perceptions (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12639 Developmental Services for Young Maltreated Children: Influences on Interventionists' Perceptions

Friday, January 15, 2010: 9:00 AM
Garden Room B (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Robert L. Herman-Smith, PhD , University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Assistant Professor, Charlotte, NC
Purpose: Infants and toddlers are at higher risk of maltreatment than other children in other age groups. Maltreated children under three years of age also experience physical, emotional, cognitive, and communication problems at 2 to 7 times the rate of children without a substantiated case of maltreatment. An amendment to the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 required child welfare departments to work with state and local programs funded under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to implement a continuum of developmental assessment and services. Four years after passage of this amendment, all states had referral agreements in place between child welfare and Part C programs. However, Part C enrollment of children less than 3 years of age referred by child welfare agencies is approximately 17%. This is significantly less than the anticipated rate of 50%. Both Part C and child welfare program administrators have concerns that under-enrollment is due to Part C providers' reluctance to work with families involved with child welfare. The author will present survey research designed to assess Part C workers' perceptions about referrals from child welfare. Based on research with similar professional groups, it was hypothesized that their perceptions of this group of children would be associated with worker characteristics and organizational climate.

Methods: A survey was designed to assess whether Part C providers 1) perceived themselves as having the resources to serve families referred from child welfare, 2) believed that doing so was part of Part C's mission, and 3) were willing to partner with maltreating parents to serve their children. Factor analyses of data collected during pilot research supported the survey's proposed three-factor structure; alpha reliabilities for each subscale were at or above .70. The survey also requested personal demographics and professional characteristics such as number of years in the field. The Organizational Climate Survey (Glisson, 2000) was also administered. Approximately 450 surveys were sent to publicly employed early childhood interventionists in a Part C program in one state. Data analyses included a confirmatory factor analysis of the survey, descriptive statistics, and hierarchical regression analyses.

Results: The response rate was 68.9%. Confirmatory factor analyses again supported the measure's three-factor structure (CFI = .96, RMSEA = .05, and TLI = .95). Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that personal and professional characteristics of workers were not significantly associated with early interventionists' perceptions. However, better organizational climate was associated with positive attitudes about serving children and families referred from child welfare, explaining about 13% of the variance.


Many factors likely contribute to the low service utilization of Part C services by families referred by child welfare agencies. If Part C program managers are concerned that their employees are reluctant to serve these families, perhaps they should give consideration to the impact of organizational climate rather than worker characteristics. The author will discuss present implications for child welfare agencies working with very young children and the need for social work policy and practice research with young at-risk children.