Abstract: Exploring the Impact of a Parenting Intervention: Does Child-Caregiver Biological Relatedness Matter? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Exploring the Impact of a Parenting Intervention: Does Child-Caregiver Biological Relatedness Matter?

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Laura Marra, MSSW, Research Director, Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, Austin, TX
Monica Faulkner, PhD, Research Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin, TX
Rowena Fong, EdD, Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Nancy Rolock, PhD, Henry L. Zucker Associate Professor of Social Work Practice, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Kevin White, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Kerrie Ocasio, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: When children are removed from their families because they cannot safely live at home, they experience trauma, grief, and loss. It is essential that caregivers are prepared to care for these children in order to have a positive impact on placement stability and permanency outcomes. In Texas, however, kinship families are not required to complete any trainings. The the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation collaborated with the Texas Department of Family Protective Services to test Pathways to Permanence 2 (“Pathways 2”), a seven session group-delivered interactive series that helps caregivers understand the impact of trauma and loss on child development. This program was offered to current kinship caregivers (non-licensed, biologically related or fictive kin) and foster parents.

Methods: A quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of Pathways 2 in one region of Texas. The sample included children in foster care from this region who did not have a permanency hearing scheduled within 60 days. Caregivers were invited to participate in Pathways 2 and in return, were provided childcare, meals and stipends for attendance. Caregivers were surveyed at two time points, once before participating in Pathways 2 and again six months after participating in Pathways 2. Mixed linear modeling was used to: 1) look at changes in child behavior problems from pre to post, and 2) determine if changes looked different based on whether or not a caregiver was biologically related to their child. Behavior problems were assessed using the Behavior Problem Index (BPI), a measure consisting of two subscales that measure the frequency, range, and type of childhood behavior problems children ages four and older may exhibit.

Results: A total of 85 families (110 caregivers) attended at least five sessions of Pathways 2 and completed the pre and post survey. Fifty-nine of these families were included in this analysis because they had a child who was at least four years old. Caregivers from 15 of these families were biologically related to their child. Overall, there was a significant decrease in a child’s frequency to internalize behaviors from pre to post. The estimate for the fixed effect (time) was significant: t(56.34)=1.01, p=0.046, and the BPI Internalizing subscale score was on average 1.01 points higher on than pre than the post. Results from a second mixed linear model indicated that Pathways 2 had a greater impact on child behavior after six months for biologically related families. The estimate for the interaction term showed a significant interaction between time and relative status; t(54.56) = 3.02; p = .004. Biologically related caregivers had on average an additional 7.34 points decrease in their total BPI score from pre to post.

Conclusion: Pathways 2 provided caregivers with a foundation to understand trauma, grief, and loss and empowered caregivers with new tools to help them address impaired-attachments and trauma. Findings have significant implications for kinship placements in Texas where children are often placed with a biological relative but not required to complete any trainings.