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Identifying successful policies and procedures for retaining resource parents: A case study of child welfare retention staff

Dissertation
Author: Jeffrey A. Williams
Abstract:
The retention of foster and adoptive parents is a critical issue in the United States. Foster and adoptive parents are needed to provide temporary parental care for children who are victims of maltreatment. This study addressed the difficulties encountered by child welfare staff to retain resource parents. This research identified policies and procedures used by child welfare retention staff that result in retention of resource parents. In this phenomenological study, 15 child welfare recruitment staff from 5 states were interviewed to identify policies and procedures found to retain resource parents. Thirty themes were identified in the research as key to retention. A set of conclusions were identified and can be used by child welfare agencies to achieve resource parent retention.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments viii List of Tables x CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 9 Statement of the Problem 12 Purpose of the Study 15 Rationale 16 Research Questions 20 Definition of Terms 20 Assumptions and Limitations 22 Nature of the Study 24 Summary 24 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 26 Introduction to the Literature Review 26 Theoretical Framework 32 Crucial Theoretical/Conceptual Debates 36 Bridging the Gaps 38 Review of the Critical Literature 40 Summary of Theme Review 44 Chapter 2 Summary 45 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 49

Introduction 49 Description of the Methodology Selected 50 Design of the Study 56 Interview Questions 57 Sampling Population 58 Instrumentation 62 Data Analysis 62 Research Validity 64 Ethical Issues 65 Chapter 3 Summary 67 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 69 Participation Selection 71 Research Findings 73 Presenting the Results 74 Formatting the Results 74 Major Themes 76 Minor Themes 79 Clusters of Nomothetic Themes and Frequency 83 Descriptive Narrative 85 Chapter 4 Summary 91 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 94 Conclusions and Recommendations 94 Summary and Discussion of Results 96

Conclusions 104 Recommendations for Further Study 106 REFERENCES 108

List of Tables Table 1 73

Table 2 76

Table 3 79

Table 4 102

1 CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Introduction to the Problem The retention of foster and adoptive parents is a vital issue in the United States. In the child welfare system, the retention of resource parents is a critical concern (Bruns, 2008). Foster and adoptive parents, also known as resource parents, are needed to provide temporary parental care for children who are victims of abuse and/or neglect. The retention of resource parents is a challenge for most child welfare agencies (Chipungu & Bent-Goodley, 2004). A study by Gibbs (2004) reported that 20-25% of resource parents quit each year. Child welfare agencies encounter constant challenges to maintain adequate numbers of resource parents (Gibbs, 2004). A study by Batterson, Crampton, Crea, Harris, Madden, and Williams (2007) identified the lack of resource homes as a critical element hindering the improvement of the child welfare system in various jurisdictions throughout the U.S. Nearly half of foster parents quit or relinquish their license within a year of their first placement (Gibbs). In 2004, resource parents provided 70% of temporary parental care for approximately 532,000 children (U.S Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2004). Non-relative resource parents provide 65% of foster home placements (DHHS, 2004). One barrier to placing children in foster care homes is the lack of available foster homes that can accommodate their needs, with a study by Gibbs (2004) that found approximately one third of resource homes do not have children placed in

2 them. Gibbs (2004) found that one fifth of resource parents provided care for 60 to 80 % of children needing placement in 2004. A previous report found that the availability of family foster homes has not kept pace with the increase in the foster care population. In 1982, there were 262,000 children in foster care. As of 1999, the number of children in foster care increased to 568,000 (DHHS, 2001). While the number of children in foster care increased, the number of resource homes remains inadequate (Younes & Harp, 2007). Rhodes, Orme, Cox, and Buehler (2003) reported that 426,000 of the 568,000 children in foster care live with foster families. Linares and Montalto (2003) found that foster care agencies lose 30-50% of their resource families each year for various reasons. This disproportionate rate indicates the need for child welfare reform, specifically as it relates to the retention of resource parents. Children are placed in foster care when child protective services or police remove them from their birth families because of abuse or neglect on the part of caregivers (O’Hare, 2008). The role of foster care is to ensure the safety and well-being of children who are victims of maltreatment, and is intended to be a temporary, short-term placement (Chipungu & Bent-Goodley, 2005). Foster parents provide a number of critical services to children who need parental care. According to Buehler, Rhodes, Orme, and Cuddeback (2006), resource parents provide the following services to children, such as a safe and secure environment; nurturing; educational services; physical and mental health care needs; social and emotional development; cultural needs of the child; permanency planning support;

3 response to separation and loss anxiety; supportive relationships between children and their birth families; and a bridge between child welfare staff and other service providers. The issue of long lengths of stays in foster care has been an area of concern for child welfare professionals, which include child advocates, policy makers, and administrators. Long lengths of stay in foster care are problematic for children, families, and child welfare staff. A report by Fiester (2008) found that children placed in care had a less than one in three chance of being reunited with their parent within 12 months. Long lengths of stay may result in dissolution of the family unit, emotional trauma to parents and children, and increased costs to public systems. A study by Barth, Green, Webb, Wall, Gibbons, and Craig (2008) found that out-of-home care for children who are victims of maltreatment cost about 10 times as much as services for children in their own home. Conversely, although short lengths of stay would seem desirable, short lengths of stay (less than a month) in foster may be an indication of poor performance by child welfare agencies. A short length of stay may be the result of a poor child protective services investigation or emergency removals by law enforcement agencies. In these instances, in-home services for parents designed to prevent removal may be more appropriate (Batterson et al., 2007). In recent years, there has been an increase in maltreatment cases throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008), an estimated 3.7 million children were the subjects of Child Protective Services (CPS) reports of alleged abuse and neglect. Of those children, 772,000 were thought to be victims and 1,740 of those victims died (DHHS, 2008). Many more maltreated children

4 die an emotional death and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Too many contemplate or attempt suicide (Samuelson, 2004). In response to these figures, many counties and states enacted child welfare reforms. The Family to Family initiative is one such method of reform adopted by child welfare agencies throughout the U.S. Family to Family (F2F) was developed in 1992 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), in consultation with national experts in child welfare. The framework of the initiative is grounded in the belief that family foster care must take a more family-centered approach that is tailored to the individual needs of children and their families; rooted in the child’s community or neighborhood; sensitive to cultural differences; and able to serve many of the children now placed in group homes and institutions (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2005). The primary mission of the Annie E. Casey Foundation is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. In pursuit of this goal, the Foundation makes grants that help states, cities, and neighborhoods fashion more innovative, cost- effective responses to these needs (AECF, 2005). The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, the founder of United Parcel Service (UPS) and his siblings George, Harry, and Marguerite. They named the philanthropy in honor of their mother. The Foundation’s headquarters are in Baltimore, Maryland, with direct services offices in Baltimore and all the New England states (AECF).

5 Family to Family is neither a pilot program, nor a fad, nor the latest new model for child welfare work. The Family to Family initiative is a set of value-driven principles that guide a tested group of strategies that are implemented by a practical set of tools for everyday use by administrators, managers, field workers, members of the community, and families. Since 1948, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has worked to build better futures for disadvantaged children and their families in the United States. The primary mission of the Foundation is to foster public policies, human service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today's vulnerable children and families (AECF, 2005).

There are four core strategies at the heart of Family-to-Family. The recruitment, training, and support of resource families seeks to address the retention of resource parents (AECF, 2005). A report by Rhodes, Orme, Cox, and Buehler (2003) found that 40% of resource families cease fostering during the first year. Resource Family Recruitment, Development, and Support is a strategy that involves finding and maintaining foster and kinship homes that can support children and families in their own neighborhoods. The Recruitment, Development and Support (RDS) team typically consists of child welfare licensing staff, recruitment and retention staff, resource parent trainers, resource parents, and community partners. A second strategy involves child welfare agencies building community partnerships by collaborating with a wide range of community organizations in the localities where the children are removed from. Casey Family Programs (2008) acknowledged the need for community involvement and support of child welfare agencies to achieve better outcomes for children.

6 The third strategy incorporates family team decision making into the case planning process. A study by Crea (2007) found that child welfare agencies encounter significant challenges in making consistent and effective placement decisions for children involved in substantiated reports of abuse and/or neglect. Team Decision Making (TDM) is an approach used in child welfare that actively includes foster parents, caseworkers, birth families and community members in all placement-related decisions for children involved in maltreatment cases. The final strategy is self-evaluation of agency data and performance. This strategy involves using hard agency-generated data that is linked to child and family outcomes to drive decision-making and policy decisions (AECF, 2005). In 2000, many county and state child welfare agencies throughout the U.S. applied and received grants to implement the core values of Family to Family. A study by Lutz and Agosti (2005) found that the child welfare system is need of reform to improve children’s well-being and to create a positive foster care program. Family to Family is a foster care reform initiative that has been implemented in 14 child welfare agencies throughout the U.S., and one of its goals addressed the issue of resource parent retention (Crea, 2007). There are nine outcomes that F2F seeks to improve for children and families in the child welfare system. States participating in the Family to Family Initiative are asked to commit themselves to achieving the following outcomes: 1. A reduction in the number of children served in institutional and congregate care can result in children being placed in a family-like setting, such as a resource home.

7 2. A shift of resources from congregate and institutional care to family foster care and family-centered services across all child and family-serving systems. 3. A reduction in the number of children served in institutional and congregate care. 4. A shift of resources from congregate and institutional care to family foster care and family-centered services across all child and family-serving systems. 5. A decrease in the lengths of stay in out-of-home placement. 6. An increase in the number of planned reunifications. 7. A decrease in the number of re-entries into care. 8. A reduction in the number of placement moves experienced by children in care. 9. An increase in the number of siblings placed together. 10. A reduction in the total number of children served away from their own families. 11. Reducing any disparities associated with race/ethnicity, gender or age in each of these outcomes (Locklin-Brown, 2008). Historically, federal and state funds represented the largest proportion of money spent for child welfare placements in group care, which included group homes, residential facilities, shelters, and mental health centers. The increasing dollars allocated to group care provided arguments by child welfare advocates to support calls for reform efforts (Fiester, 2008). A number of localities in the U.S embarked on reforming their child welfare systems to address the issue of placing children in more family-like settings, which were often unavailable (Fiester). The constant shortage of resource homes has been

8 problematic, given the fact that up to 40% of resource parents quit during the first year (Rhodes et al., 2003). Thus, the need for system reform became crucial. One essential strategy of F2F is the recruitment, retention, and training of foster parents who live in the same communities and neighborhoods where children were removed from their parents or caretakers. Research indicates that placing a child in his or her own neighborhood or community might be less traumatizing for a child entering foster care as opposed to placing that child away from familiar surroundings (AECF, 2005). Therefore, the F2F initiative has included the retention, and training strategic component by which foster parents will be recruited in neighborhoods from which many of the children come from, who must be placed. The implementation and application of this strategy will not only help to make the child’s transition easier, but will also help to bring more support to the parents or caregivers from whom the child was removed and also to the relatives whose lives may somehow be impacted by the removal as well. For families who require child protective services intervention, services that are readily available in their community increase the family’s chances of remaining intact (AECF). Resource Family Recruitment, Development, and Support is a strategy that involves finding and maintaining foster and kinship homes that can support children and families in their own neighborhoods. The Recruitment, Development and Support (RDS) team typically consists of child welfare licensing staff, recruitment and retention staff, resource parent trainers, resource parents, and community partners (Batterson et al., 2007).

9 Background of the Study The purpose of this research is to identify successful policies and procedures used by child welfare retention staff that result in the retention of foster and adoptive parents, defined as resource parents. There is a gap in the knowledge of policies and procedures that result in high retention of resource parents. Barth et al. (2008) identified the paucity of research on the issue of out-of home care. Resource parents are needed to provide temporary parental care for children who are victims of abuse and/or neglect. One barrier to placing children in foster care homes is the lack of available foster homes that can accommodate the needs of the children coming into care. In an ideal situation, child welfare systems would have an adequate number of resource parents to meet the needs of children that require temporary foster care. The historical nature of this issue reveals a shortage of resource parents who are willing and available to provide parental care (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). Adequate training of potential and current resource parents is a critical element for retention. The U.S. Children’s Bureau identified training as a necessary element to assure quality of care to children in foster care (Grimm, 2003). A national review of resource parent training relied on comments from training participants, as opposed to child welfare retention staff. There remains a lack of literature related to resource parent retention from the perspective of child welfare staff. A study by Batterson et al. (2007) identified the lack of resource homes as a critical element in reforming the child welfare system in five regional areas of the United States. These locations included Cleveland, Ohio., Denver, Colorado., Louisville,

10 Kentucky., and Orange and San Francisco Counties, California. Each of these sites applied for and received a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to reform their child welfare systems. The Family to Family initiative is a set of value-driven principles that guide a tested group of strategies that are implemented by a practical set of tools for everyday use by administrators, managers, field workers, members of the community, and families. Since 1948,

the Annie E. Casey Foundation has worked to build better futures for disadvantaged children and their families in the United States. The primary mission of the Foundation is to foster public policies, human service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today's vulnerable children and families (AECF, 2005). In response to the mission and values of AECF, 36 child welfare agencies applied for and received grants to reform their child welfare systems. Each site that received a grant was required to commit to child welfare system reform. One essential strategy of F2F is the retention of foster parents who live in the same communities and neighborhoods where children were removed from their parents or caretakers. It is felt that placing a child in his or her own neighborhood or community might be less traumatizing for a child entering foster care as opposed to placing that child away from familiar surroundings (Fiester, 2008). Therefore, the F2F Initiative has included the recruitment and retention strategic component by which resource parents will be recruited in neighborhoods from which many of the children come from. The implementation and application of this strategy will not only help to make the child’s transition easier, but will also help to bring more support to the parents or caregivers from

11 whom the child was removed and also to the relatives whose lives may somehow be impacted by the removal as well. For families that have been involved in child protective services investigations, available services to encourage family preservation increase their chances of remaining intact. A number of reasons why children are removed from their parents and placed into foster care have been posited by researchers. According to Crosson-Tower (2005) poverty is often related to child maltreatment. Conditions such as domestic violence, unemployment, unsupportive neighborhoods, substance abuse, and lack of a support system are factors that, when added to poverty creates anger and pressure in adults. The resulting anger and pressure is a leading factor in child maltreatment. Children raised in poverty are more likely to be reported to child protective services, more likely to have the report substantiated, more likely to be removed from the home, and more likely to remain in substitute care for a longer period of time. Reported cases of child abuse and neglect among poor children are almost seven times larger as the incidence among non-poor children (Dorans & Roberts, 2000). The purpose of child protective services (CPS) is to assure that children are protected from further physical or emotional harm caused by a parent or other adult responsible for the child’s health and welfare. One intended goal is to assist families to function responsibly and independently in providing care for the children for whom they are responsible (Michigan Department of Human Services, 2001). The CPS program is based on the conviction that protection of children is primarily the responsibility of parents. When parents and other responsible adults fail, and children are harmed or are at significant risk of abuse or neglect to warrant

12 intervention, CPS intervenes to safeguard the rights and welfare of children whose families are unable or unwilling to do so. By law, DHS has the responsibility to receive and to respond to any complaint of child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, maltreatment or improper custody (Michigan Department of Human Services, 2001). Since child protective services (CPS) is the initial point of entry for children and families into the child welfare system, this area was the first to be addressed in the reform initiative. Child protective services is mandated by law to respond to reports of child abuse and neglect. If upon investigation, CPS finds that a child was abused or neglected, then the case usually remains open for longer-term CPS intervention. The majority of substantiated abuse or neglect cases result in the case being transferred to foster care (Michigan Department of Human Services, 2001). Studies by Rhodes et al. (2003) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human services (1993) found that there is a chronic shortage of available foster homes in which to place children who are victims of maltreatment.

Statement of the Problem This study addressed the problem of the difficulties encountered by child welfare staff in their efforts to retain long-term resource parents. It is vital that child welfare recruitment professionals find ways to continuously engage and encourage current resource parents. The issue of child maltreatment remains a critical social issue within the U.S. There were a total of 299,878 children that entered out-of-home care in calendar year 2005 (Child Welfare League of America, 2007). Both state and local data reveal

13 high rates of placement moves for children who are placed in foster homes. One objective of the Family to Family initiative is to reduce the number of placement moves experienced by children (AECF, 2005). One method that Family to Family has implemented to achieve this objective is to provide measures to ensure that the first placement of a child into protective care is the best placement, and that the placement matched the needs of the child and the expertise of the resource parents. Child welfare agencies face a number of challenges to retain resource parents (Rhodes et al, 2006). In 2006, there were 3.6 million reports of child neglect and abuse reported to child welfare agencies. More than 900,000 children were victims. Of this number, 64% of the children were victims of abuse or neglect, seven percent were victims of emotional abuse; nine percent were victims of sexual abuse, and 16 percent were physically abused (DHHS, 2008). In 2006, there were a total of 1,813 children who initially entered the child welfare system in Wayne County, Michigan (Michigan Department of Human Services, 2007). One problem encountered by child welfare agencies is the ability to continuously engage and encourage long-term resource parents for children, some of whom may exhibit anti-social behaviors. Few studies are available (Lutz & Agosti, 2005; Linares & Montalto, 2003; and Rhodes, Orme, & Buehler, 2001) that link the reasons for providing foster care by resource families and the actual utilization of their homes by the child welfare agency. In 2006, an estimated 3.6 million children were involved in child protective services (CPS) reports of abuse and neglect (DHHS, 2006). The reports involved 905,000 children who were thought to be victims, and 1,530 of those victims died. Findings by

14 Samuelson (2004) found that many more maltreated children die an emotional death and suffer from post-traumatic stress, severe anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and suicide. Resource parents provide a critical service by serving as either foster or adoptive parents for children who are victims of maltreatment or abandonment. The retention of resource parents is an essential element of producing an effective child welfare system. A number of barriers exist that prevent successful retention of resource parents. Barriers include a lack of response by child welfare recruitment staff, time of training that conflict with prospective parents’ schedules, unprofessional and ill-prepared staff, lack of respect towards prospective resource parents by child welfare staff, and unrealistic expectations of resource parents due to agency policies. The problem is a gap in the professional knowledge as to which policies and practices are most effective to retain resource parents. The lack of resource parents is a barrier to the improvement of child welfare services in most child welfare agencies. In 2004, more than 372,400 children in care lived with resource parents (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2004). Resource parents provided care for 65% of the children that required a temporary family-like setting (DHHS, 2004). The cost for foster care in the U.S. is approximately $5 Billion per year (DHHS, 2005). Children who are victims of abuse or neglect require resource parents to provide temporary family-like settings, however, many children are placed in residential facilities due to the lack of available resource homes. Child welfare agencies encounter constant challenges to maintain a sufficient number of resource parents (Rhodes, Cox, Orme, & Coakley, 2006).

15 Since the lack of resource parents is a problem in many child welfare agencies, the challenge is to retain an adequate number of resource parents to provide temporary family-like settings, which prevent children from being placed in residential facilities (Rhodes et al., 2006). Resource parents also relinquish their licenses for various reasons. The research problem seeks to identify the policies and practices that result in the retention of resource parents.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this phenomenological study identified policies and procedures that result in the retention of resource parents from the perspective of child welfare staff. Effective policies and procedures are those which result in high retention of resource parents. Identifying policies and practices will assist child welfare agencies to retain more resource parents. The participants in the study consisted of a group of public and private child welfare recruitment and retention staff from various child welfare organizations throughout the U.S. who are Family to Family grantees. The results of the study can be replicated and used by other child welfare agencies to enhance their retention of resource parents. Other child welfare agencies may be able to strengthen their programs by adopting effective policies and procedures identified in the study. A tentative definition for resource parents is described as a foster parent and/or adoptive parent that provide substitute parental care for children who are victims of maltreatment or abandonment. The retention of resource parents is essential to the child welfare system.

16 Rationale, Relevance, and Significance of the Study The lack of resource parents is an issue in most child welfare agencies. The retention of resource parents is an essential element of a child welfare system. The large number of children entering the foster care system is a nationwide trend (Hula, 2006). Resource parents are used to provide temporary parental care when children enter the foster care system. This study identified the policies and procedures that are most effective during the retention process that result in an adequate number of resource parents. Resource families provide a vitally important service for children who need temporary or permanent out-of-home care. A report by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services found that approximately 70% of children in foster care live with foster families (Rhodes et al., 2006). This means that the rest of the children are placed in residential or group home settings, instead of in the family-like setting of a foster home. To address this need, an adequate number of resource parents must be available. Components of the study identified the policies and procedures that are most effective to help applicants move from one phase to the next during the application and training process. The issue of which policies and procedures are effective when potential resource parents express interest in being licensed and how the agency responds is critical. Finally, the study will help identify policies and procedures that are most effective to assess the retention of resource parents. A common circumstance encountered in child welfare organizations is the existence of emergency shelters that provide the initial entry point for children entering out-of-home care. A subsequent issue in the placement of children is the role of law

Full document contains 131 pages
Abstract: The retention of foster and adoptive parents is a critical issue in the United States. Foster and adoptive parents are needed to provide temporary parental care for children who are victims of maltreatment. This study addressed the difficulties encountered by child welfare staff to retain resource parents. This research identified policies and procedures used by child welfare retention staff that result in retention of resource parents. In this phenomenological study, 15 child welfare recruitment staff from 5 states were interviewed to identify policies and procedures found to retain resource parents. Thirty themes were identified in the research as key to retention. A set of conclusions were identified and can be used by child welfare agencies to achieve resource parent retention.