Abstract: Experiences of Child Care Providers Serving Subsidy-Receiving Children Involved in the Child Protective Services System (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.

Experiences of Child Care Providers Serving Subsidy-Receiving Children Involved in the Child Protective Services System

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, MSSW, Associate Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Pamela Joshi, PhD, Senior Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Kate Schneider, PhD, Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Roberto Salva, PhD Candidate, Brandeis University, MA
Tiffany Thieu, MA, Student, Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Background: High-quality child-care supports positive development and school readiness of children. For children involved in the states’ child protective service system (CPS children), attending such care can lower future system involvement (Klein & Jekielek, 2018) and improve overall family functions (Klein, 2016). However, CPS children are less likely to attend high-quality programs (Dinehart et al., 2012), and academic gaps, challenging behaviors, and high rates of out-of-school suspension during kindergarten/elementary school years have been concerns (Zetlin, 2012). Yet, little to no studies have examined what factors might affect care arrangements of CPS children and what resources/support might be helpful to facilitate those arrangements. This study examines child care providers’ experiences serving CPS children, including positives and challenges in providing care and resources/supports that meet CPS children’s needs.

Method: This study uses data from 22 focus groups with 62 centers and 48 family child care (FCC) providers who serve subsidy-receiving children in Massachusetts. The data were collected between November 2020 and March 2021. We asked providers about their perception of quality, family engagement, children’s challenging behaviors, and program operations. During focus groups, experience serving CPS children emerged as a major theme. For more detailed analysis, we first assigned theoretically derived codes and attribute codes (e.g., child group served) and then used an inductive approach yielding initial coding of categories around main themes. The initial codes were reanalyzed, systematically applied, further refined, and explored to identify interdependent themes. All analyses were done using NVivo 12.

Results: Child care providers identified positives and challenges in serving CPS children. Providers expressed a sense of “rewarding” in serving CPS children who are in “the greatest need.” and appreciation for childcare subsidies in proving access to care, describing child care as a “heaven” for them. Providers also identified challenges, including caregivers’ lack of communication with providers, children’s challenging behaviors and feeling unprepared or not trained to address such behaviors, the transient nature of children’ placements and failure to provide transitional subsidies when a child’s CPS case closes, a lack of information sharing regarding children’s backgrounds that would help providers meet children’s needs [“I think we deserve to have that shared with us so that we have the knowledge in which area that family needs help in”], and 6) a lack of resources to meet children’s needs, including monetary support to replace materials or attending trainings on trauma-informed care or behavioral management.

Conclusions and Implications: While providers express a sense of fulfillment caring for CPS children, they face multiple challenges that could be solved through changes in policy/practice. Particularly, more interagency collaboration is needed to ensure that children receive transitional subsidies when needed to promote stability of children’s care arrangements and overall family well-being. Additionally, interagency collaborations could make the child care referral process and information sharing easier for providers and caseworkers. As policymakers consider new funding streams to rebuild post-pandemic child care, these findings shed light on resources/supports that providers need to serve CPS children.