Methods: A non-probability convenience sample, targeting case managers (N = 54), was employed. The study design was a 2x2 experimental vignette methodology: White, two-parent; Black, two-parent; White, single-parent; Black, single-parent.
Results: Nearly 75% of the sample indicated in-home services recommendation, while 52% of the sample selected “unsafe” as the safety decision, a conflicting result based on the practice model. A significant relationship between safety decisions and removal decisions ( = 7.341, p < .05) occurred, with 11.5% of respondents indicating out-of-home services with a “safe” decision and 64.3% of respondents indicating in-home services with an “unsafe” decision. There was a medium effect size (φ = .254, p = .062) in the relationship between family structure and removal decision. The mediating effect of safety decision resulted in over a .50 probability of receiving an out-of-home services recommendation for children said to be from single-parent families when the safety decision was safe (O.R. = .180, p < .05). A mediating effect of safety decision resulted in over a .99 probability of receiving an out-of-home services recommendation, for respondents who viewed the White, single-parent vignette when the safety decision was safe (O.R. = 2.394, p < .05).
Implications for practice: Using structured decision-making models should enhance the quality and consistency of decisions. The results, however, indicate that there may be some inconsistencies in how the practice model is being used. While a large proportion of the sample indicated in-home services, an expected outcome, nearly half of the respondents who selected in-home services had indicated the home environment was unsafe. This was not an expected outcome. The practice model stipulates that the safety outcome should correlate with the removal recommendations with a “safe” outcome resulting in in-home services recommendations and an “unsafe” outcome resulting in out-of-home services recommendations. These results may indicate a need for changes to the Florida Practice Model, including an examination of how it is currently being used, a better understanding of the relationship between removal and safety decisions, and an incorporation of training on how individual biases and heuristic decision-making can lead to biases in services.