This study examined the self-reports of youth in residential care settings for disadvantaged youth in Israel on the perceived availability of support from their mothers and fathers and their in-person and phone contact with them. A range of correlates and the moderating role of marital status in the link between gender and contact were examined.
Methods: The study was based on a cluster random sample of 1,409 youth, aged 13 to 20, in Israeli educational RCSs for youth from underprivileged backgrounds, who completed a structured questionnaire in their residential care settings, using an adaptation of the Social Support Network Questionnaire (SSNQ; Gee & Rhodes, 2007), designed to measure the delivery of various basic types of father and mother support, including emotional support, tangible assistance, cognitive guidance, and social participation. Multivariate regression models with a moderation effect between gender and family status were used using PROCESS analysis (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) via SPSS.
Results: Overall, adolescents reported more perceived support and more frequent contact with mothers, though fathers were perceived to be involved fairly highly in their lives. Adolescents from divorced-parent families and those whose parents lived farther away from the RCS reported less frequent and supportive contact. Boys reported more parental support. Parents' education was linked positively with most measures of contact. Overall, immigrant adolescents reported less frequent contact. Among youth from divorced-parent families, boys reported significantly higher levels of support and phone contact with fathers, but among adolescents from intact families, the gender gap was insignificant.
Conclusions and implications: Identifying groups of youth at risk for poor contact with parents has implications for pre-placement decisions and for designing interventions to enhance child-parent contact while in care. For example, the findings suggest that geographic proximity to the child's family home should be an important factor in deciding where to place the child. Placement of children far from their home should occur only when completely necessary. Our findings indicate a need to help fathers acquire the necessary tools and skills to enable them to support their children. Fathers and other father figures should be identified early in the child removal process and, alongside safety assessment, barriers to paternal engagement and sources of disengagement should be ascertained.
This study emphasized the importance of examining the patterns and correlates of contact that adolescents in residential care have with their fathers and mothers. The findings show that the relationships with parents have common correlates, such as geographic distance from the RCS, and different correlates, such as the interaction between gender and family type. Understanding which youth and family characteristics are associated with child-parent contact while in residential care could help contribute to developing targeted interventions designed to enhance contact with both fathers and mothers.