Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

27P The Role of Social Support and Service Use In Promoting Permanence Among Children In the Child Welfare System

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Khushmand Rajendran, PhD, MSW, Post Doctoral Fellow, Queens College, Flushing, NY
Brenda D. Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Lynn Videka, PhD, Professor and Dean, New York University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Child welfare policies prioritize stable and permanent home environments for children of caregivers who have faced allegations of maltreatment. For children not moved to foster care after a child maltreatment investigation, services for caregivers and informal social support networks may help lower the risk of future child out-of-home placement. However, it is not clear whether both formal service use and informal social support have a role in promoting home stability for children in the child welfare system. Study objectives: This study aims to identify service use patterns among intact and non-intact families with CPS allegations; to assess caregiver social support; and the combined effects of both service use and social support in promoting permanency. Hypotheses: The use of services will be associated with greater risk for placement out-of-home. Higher levels of social support on the other hand will be associated with lower risk for placement out-of-home. Study design: This study used data from the National Survey of Child & Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) a prospective longitudinal design involving a national probability sample of 5,501 children (aged 0 to 15) in the U.S. child welfare system. Data was collected at 5 points of time between the years 1999 and 2007. Sampling method: A two-stage stratified sample. Participants: The sample consisted of 3,099 participants who provided data on service use and social support. Those who participated did not differ significantly on child age and gender from those who did not. Participants were defined as being in intact families (N=2,464) if children spent less than 5% of the days in the entire study period out-of-home, and being in non-intact families if children spent 5% or more of days out-of-home (N=635) over the eight year period of the study. Measures: Days in out-of-home placement were calculated based on caregiver and caseworker reports, cross-checked with child welfare records. Service use was measured using caregiver report during the first two years of the study. Social support was measured in the first year of the study using caseworker report. Data Analysis: Data was analyzed using logistic regression taking into account the population, cluster and strata weights. Results: Caregivers of children in the non-intact group received significantly more services overall [Odds Ratio (OR)= 2.90] (p for all less than .01); especially more family counseling (OR= 3.32); food assistance (OR=2.00) and support group therapy (OR= 2.78). Caseworkers identified 26.5% of caregivers in the intact family group and 47.4% of caregivers in the non-intact family group as having low social support (OR=2.55; p<.01). In a multiple logistic regression lower social support (OR= 2.13, p<.01) and greater use of services (OR=2.79, p<.01) were associated with greater risk for placement out-of-home after controlling for child age and gender. Conclusions and implications: Caseworkers need to consider the contribution of both professional services and informal social supports in maintaining permanency among children in child welfare, and need to help the families build informal supports to reduce the likelihood of out of home placement.