It is assumed that many parents involved with child welfare struggle with multiple problems such as housing, mental illness, and substance abuse (Kemp, Marcenko, Hoagwood, & Vesneski, 2009). Yet, relatively little is known about the comorbidity of these conditions and any associated service or treatment implications in the child welfare population (Barth, 2007). Because a central objective of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Integrated Assessment (IA) program is to interview and assess both mothers and fathers, it provides a unique opportunity to better understand if and how the needs of fathers cluster together. This paper uses latent class analysis to classify four unique profiles of need with which fathers present.
Methods: This study draws on data collected through DCFS's IA program, specifically the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment which measures caregiver service needs and strengths. The sampling frame encompasses cases in which a child was placed with a foster care family between 2007 and 2010. From among these families 2,351 had a father (biological, adoptive, step, or putative) who participated in the IA. Latent class analysis was used to identify four subpopulations in the data, using the following CANS items: Mental health needs, Posttraumatic reactions, Marital/partner violence, Substance abuse, and Resources/housing.
Latent class analysis suggests four subpopulations of fathers defined by distinctive profiles. The first class is the largest, representing roughly half (47%) of all families. This group is primarily characterized by the relative lack of concern across all of the CANS indicators as compared to the other groups. The second group is characterized by the strong likelihood for substance abuse concern – 85% of the fathers representing these families are likely to have a substance abuse need – as well as resource/housing needs. This group represents roughly a third of all families in the sample. The third group is characterized by the strong likelihood for mental health needs among fathers in these families – ninety percent of which are likely to have a mental health need. This group represents just over one tenth of the sample. Finally, the fourth group is characterized by a relatively high likelihood for actionable scores across nearly all of the given indicators. Probabilities for mental health, substance abuse, partner violence, and resource/housing needs are all higher than 75%. This group represents 8% of the total sample.
Conclusions and Implications:
The results suggest that nearly half of all families have a father with few service needs among the given CANS items. The lack of concern among these fathers may be leveraged by caseworkers as an overall family strength. There are also specific groups of fathers who may benefit from specially tailored services that acknowledge the presence of co-morbid conditions, such as housing and substance abuse. Finally, programs that address substance abuse, partner violence, mental health, and resource/housing needs in unison may be explored to address the subset of fathers experiencing the most severe constellation of multiple service needs.