The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Social Service Utilization Patterns of Foreign Spouses in Korea

Friday, January 18, 2013: 10:30 AM
Executive Center 2B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Hyemee Kim, PhD, Ph.D, University of Incheon, Seoul, South Korea
Background:  South Korea has recently witnessed an unprecedented influx of foreigners, particularly those who enter the country as spouses of Korean citizens. Many changes have taken place both at policy and practice levels and various social services were implemented for the spouses. Despite such progress, utilization rates for certain services such as counseling remain low and literature investigating their service use remains scarce. By using Gelberg-Andersen's Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations as a theoretical framework, this study aims to identify factors associated with foreign spouses' service utilization patterns.

Method: This study uses the National Survey on Multicultural Families 2009 for analyses. It is the first and only complete enumeration study on a national population of multicultural families and foreign spouse in Korea and remains to this date, the largest data for this population. For this study, a total of 6,316 foreign spouses, both female and male are included. Structural equation modeling is employed to examine the relationships among predisposing, enabling, need factors and utilization of adjustment assistance and family services.

Result: The full-path model yielded fit indices of Χ2=4.709(df=2), IFI and CFI of .999, and RMSEA of .051, indicating an adequate model fit. Different factors were associated with the utilization of two domains of services. For example, gender (Β=-.066), ethnic background (Β=-.308), length of residence (Β=-.041), and status on having children (Β=.063) were significant predisposing factors affecting utilization. Among the enabling factors, the NBLS status (Β=.040), place of residence (Β=-.066), relationships with people from home country (Β=.101) and with foreigners (Β=.044) were found significant. Both need factors, perceived need for the services (Β=.229) and language ability were identified as significant predictors. For family services, fewer factors were identified as predictors. Among predisposing factors, only gender (Β=-.041), ethnic background (Β=-.142), having children (Β=.178) were found significant in predicting service use. Among enabling factors, NBLS status (Β=.097), place of residence (Β=-.101), and relationship with people from home country (Β=.057) were found significant. Perceived need for the services (Β=.180) was the strongest determinant of family service use.

Implications: Findings provide an empirical ground for interventions as well as implications for policy and practice. For example, findings show that language ability functions as a barrier in accessing the adjustment assistance, implying that services are not properly reaching the target population. Those who are not equipped with some knowledge of language are not likely to use the services, indicating that level-specific services need to be implemented. More active outreach effort is also needed as those in most need are not being serviced. Findings also indicate that relationships with people from home country function as a bridge between the service and the spouses. It is thus recommended for social workers and practitioners to target such informal social network in disseminating information about the services. In sum, findings show that one size fits all approach towards service provision for multicultural families is not effective and changes need to be made at the structural level to improve an overall accessibility of services.