Abstract: Inclusion of Peer Parents in Team-Based Parent Representation: Child Welfare Dependency Cases (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Inclusion of Peer Parents in Team-Based Parent Representation: Child Welfare Dependency Cases

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Judy Krysik, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Emily Saeteurn, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Shannon Burns, JD, Director, Public Advocate, Office of the Public Advocate
Natalia Vasiliou, MSW, Research Specialist, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Karin Kline, MSW, Director of Child Welfare Initiatives, Family Involvement Center, Phoenix, AZ
Background: The peer parent model is being implemented in child welfare settings to increase parental engagement and positive case outcomes. This approach utilizes parents with lived experience navigating the child welfare system as mentors to parents currently involved in a dependency case. A peer parent program located in the southwest recently began utilizing peer parents as Peer Parent Navigators (PPN) in team-based parent representation (TBPR). This parent-centered approach is being implemented in various states, offering an umbrella of support to child welfare. Members of TBPR include the PPN, the parent’s attorney, and a social worker who each bring their unique expertise to the table when assisting parents. As TBPR is a novel interdisciplinary approach, this study aims to examine the role of the PPN and TBPR in child welfare. Furthermore, this study aims to assess preliminary case outcomes associated with TBPR participation and dependency.

Methods: This mixed methods study consisted of individual interviews with TBPR members and quantitative analysis of data provided by the Office of the Public Advocate. Fourteen participants (N = 14) were interviewed, including parent attorneys (n = 6), social workers (n = 6), and PPNs (n = 2). Transcripts of the individual interviews were checked for accuracy and entered into NVivo to assist in organizing and coding the data. Data coding and theme identification was an iterative process and consensus was reached by the coding teams throughout the process. Furthermore, descriptive analysis was conducted to determine the rate of permanency outcomes for participants of TBPR and multivariate analysis examined the contribution of variables related to reunification.

Results: Three general themes were identified regarding the role of the PPN in TBPR. The first theme addressed how success in a dependency case is defined, the second theme centered around the function of TBPR in child welfare, and the final theme focused on the importance of TBPR’s foundational work. Of the 73 TBPR cases for which a permanency outcome had been determined, 53 cases resulted in reunification (72.6%). Severance was indicated for 15 (20.5%), and guardianship in 3 cases (4.1%). Alternatives to reunification were significantly associated with parental non-engagement.

Conclusions and Implications: The use of PPN offers a promising addition to the child welfare system. The PPN forges a unique relationship with child welfare involved parents, validating parents’ feelings and providing hope and motivation to navigate their dependency case. Close to three-quarters of the closed TBPR cases had reunification as a permanency outcome. This is significant as nationally, 47% of youth who exited foster care in FFY 2019 achieved reunification. An encouraging finding in the quantitative analysis was that the only item significantly related to the outcome of reunification, was whether or not the parent engaged in TBPR. It is reasonable, therefore, to suggest that TBPR is likely to lead to overall better rates of reunification.