Abstract: Building on Innovations in Child Welfare: Connecting Parents to Improve Reunification Outcomes (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

14P Building on Innovations in Child Welfare: Connecting Parents to Improve Reunification Outcomes

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth Anthony, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Ann Carver, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University
 Background and Purpose:  Peer parent programs where experienced parents are matched with parents new to child welfare represent a burgeoning and promising area of practice. Despite an increase of peer models across the country (Children’s Bureau, 2016), very little information is available about model fidelity or the relationship between the peer parent models and reunification outcomes. The current study furthers this research by investigating the relationship between a parent support program and reunification outcomes in a rural southwestern state. The research hypotheses were: H1: The intervention will be associated with reunification as a permanency outcome and H2: Among those who reunify, involvement in the intervention will be associated with a shorter length of stay in out-of-home placement.

Methods: A two-group, post-test design was conducted to determine the treatment association between the intervention and reunification. The intervention group included cases participating in peer parent support and a comparison group.  Inclusion criteria included 1) children under age five at the time of removal, 2) children with removal duration of more than eight days, and 3) children with no prior history of removal. The sample included 90 children in the intervention group and 158 children in the comparison group to test the reunification hypothesis (Hypothesis 1).  The sample used in Hypothesis 2 included cases where reunification had occurred, resulting in a sample of 27 cases for the intervention group and 39 cases in the comparison group. The sample was majority rural and White (55%), with Multiple Races as the second most common (33%).  Neglect was by far the most common case maltreatment type (88%). 


The analysis supported our first hypothesis that the intervention group experienced a higher percentage of reunification, 30% (n=90) compared to 25% (n=158) in the comparison group, although this finding was not statistically significant. These percentages are promising; however, future studies should include a larger and more diverse sample to better understand the impact of the program on reunification.  The second hypothesis was supported. The mean length of stay in days was significantly less for the intervention group (M=151.11; SD=133.09) than the non-intervention group (M=223.15, SD=137.26).  The independent t-tests were statistically significant, t= (64) -72.043, p=.038, 95% CI (-139,853, -4.233), with a substantial effect size as indicated by Cohen’s d=.532.  The results indicated a statistically significant mean difference of 72.043, which supported the second research hypothesis.

Implications for Practice: Our aim was to assess the association between the intervention and reunification outcomes.  Our results indicated that among those cases that reunify, involvement in the intervention was associated with shorter lengths of stay when compared to those cases not receiving the intervention.  This finding was statistically significant; however, our results did not support the hypothesis that involvement in the intervention is associated with reunification.  Despite the limitations due to the small sample size, our findings suggest that peer mentor support may result in children returning home sooner, which can have a positive impact on children’s well-being, particularly in rural communities with a scarcity of resources.