Abstract: Parent Perspectives of a Parenting Intervention at Program Start and Completion: Considering the Views of Parents Involved in Child Welfare and Affected By Substance Use (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Parent Perspectives of a Parenting Intervention at Program Start and Completion: Considering the Views of Parents Involved in Child Welfare and Affected By Substance Use

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 9:45 AM
Union Square 14 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Becci Akin, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Jody Brook, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Overland Park, KS
Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Megan Paceley, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Sharah Davis-Groves, LMSW, Research Associate, University of Kansas, KS
Background and Purpose:  Families affected by substance use experience higher rates of child maltreatment, child welfare involvement, and poor child welfare outcomes. In response, some systems have used evidence-based parenting interventions (EBPIs) to improve outcomes of this target population. While studies indicate promise, EBPIs have not been widely assessed from the view of birth parents, especially those affected by substance use, who may be distinctly vulnerable and marginalized. Drawing on parents’ voices and expertise, this study sought to understand parents’ first and changing impressions throughout their involvement in an EBPI, as well as impressions at program completion.

Methods:  Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 10 parents who were involved in child welfare and a family drug treatment court (FDTC) in a Midwestern state. All parents were affected by substance use and had recently completed the Strengthening Families Program, a group-based parenting intervention. Parents were asked to reflect on their experience of the intervention, particularly concerning their views as they started and ended the group. Interviews were audio-recorded, professionally transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed for prominent themes.  Rigor and trustworthiness were enhanced by using multiple reads of the data, team coding and review, keeping a detailed audit trail of coding and analyses, and peer debriefing among the research team.

Results:  Parents described four key themes that influenced their perspectives of the parenting intervention. First, parents shared that their initial attitude toward the program was greatly influenced by the program’s reputation as communicated by peers. Second, even when parents started with resistance to the program, their engagement and full participation was facilitated by relevant and usable program content. Third, parents’ favorable views of the program were directly related to whether their children learned from and enjoyed it. Along these lines, parents placed high value on the program providing them with ‘extra’ time with their children, especially those whose children were living in foster care. Finally, parents stressed the importance of program structure and recommended that group facilitators promote a safe, supportive, and positive atmosphere. They valued a caring facilitator who showed respect and high regard for them as parents.

Conclusions and Implications:  Overall, this study contributes to the literature on EBPIs in child welfare with birth parents affected by substance use. Based on parents’ recommendations, parenting interventions should emphasize several key points to referred parents: learning concrete, practical skills; getting to spend quality time with children; meeting and relating to other parents; children benefiting from the program; and high-quality group facilitation. Given that existing research has indicated that parents’ positive views of an intervention increase their engagement and program completion, understanding the perspectives of parents who complete EBPIs may offer relevant insights into how to design programs and engage parents effectively. Future research should also incorporate the views of parents who did not complete EBPIs. Listening to parent perspectives in child welfare is an important step toward ensuring that interventions meet the needs of both parents and children, and promote family reunification and stability.