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.