Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Child Welfare Administrators' Perspectives of Early Implementation of the Florida Guardianship Assistance Program (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

128P (see Poster Gallery) Child Welfare Administrators' Perspectives of Early Implementation of the Florida Guardianship Assistance Program

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Morgan Cooley, PhD, Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University, FL
Martie Gillen, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Florida
Selena Garrison, MS, Doctoral Student, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Background: When children must be removed from their biological parents states are required to prioritize kinship placement to receive funding from the federal government through the Title IV-E program (CWIG, 2018b). Different degrees of resources are offered by child welfare agencies to kinship caregivers depending on caregivers’ level of involvement and/or special training or certification within the state, and policies can vary from state to state (CWIG, 2016). Child welfare administrators are responsible for implementing state mandates and working with their staff and families, thus their perspectives are important in both the evaluation of practice and policy. This research examined child welfare administrators’ perspectives of the initial implementation of the Florida Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) in Florida.

Methods: This presentation will present mixed methods findings (descriptive statistics, content analysis) of child welfare administrators’ (e.g., licensing specialists, licensing supervisors, administrative staff, program directors/officers) responses to a statewide Internet survey (n=144). Surveys were developed by a team of child welfare administrators, child welfare workers, and university researchers.

Results: Overall, 82.5% of administrators were formally trained on the GAP through training specific to their agency or through statewide efforts to train child welfare workers, and the vast majority felt confident in their understanding and ability to explain the GAP to their staff and families. There were some discrepancies in how the GAP was administered across the state in terms of who talks to families about the GAP and in what format (phone, face-to-face), materials for educating families, or support to caregivers applying for the GAP. However, administrators perceived the GAP had a number of strengths in providing financial support to families, extending benefits, providing access to support or resources, and increasing the likelihood of permanency or stability for children. Perceived challenges of the GAP included the complexity and stress of the application for caregivers, that some caregivers did not need resources and were not motivated to apply for the program, uncertainty among caregivers as to why the GAP was helpful or important to their family, as well as some other challenges in licensing caregivers (e.g., criminal background checks, changes to case goals, denied home studies).

Conclusions/Implications: The findings highlight benefits of the program for kinship families, as well as the challenges that administrators face in enacting the GAP that may not be recognized by policymakers, frontline workers, or those directly impacted by policy. These challenges could put pressure on administrators to make decisions that could not only increase the risk of liability for the community-based care agency and the state but more concerningly, negatively influence children’s’ well-being. Recommendations include more research on how policy waivers can be helpful or unhelpful in meeting the needs of children and child welfare agencies and on how the GAP should be discussed with families (who, what, when, etc.); increased communication among child welfare administrators and workers about families interested or eligible for the GAP; and early dissemination of physical and informational resources to families who are navigating decisions around permanent guardianship.