Theses Doctoral

Program Orientation as a Factor in Workers' Attitudes and Perceptions of the Need for Placement in Child Welfare

Meezan, William Alan

In recent years the child welfare system in New York City has come under criticism for placing most of its resources in providing services to the child away from home. Due to the reimbursement agreement between the public sector responsible for these children and the voluntary agencies which provide care, few "in home" or preventive services have been available. In response to this criticism the Preventive Service Demonstration Project was established, in which intensive family services were provided to families of children in jeopardy of being placed. Evaluation of this project showed that such services did, in fact, reduce the number of children entering foster care and the time spent in care of those who entered. This research investigates the impact of preventive service units on the workers' attitudes and perceptions of the need for placement. Five groups of child welfare workers were participants in the study. Two of the groups were primarily concerned with providing preventive services (n=55), while three provided traditional under care services (n=109). The subjects in the research were administered an instrument which collected social/demographic information and measures of six attitudes. In addition, the subjects were presented five case analogues and asked to judge six case elements and whether the child should be placed in an appropriate foster care setting. Results of the analysis showed that workers in preventive units were different in their attitudes than workers in traditional settings -- they were more likely to feel preventive services were useful, to see the continuing importance of biological parents and to feel that foster care was a damaging experience for children. In addition. while all workers saw the elements of the five cases in about the same way, workers in preventive units placed fewer of the five children in the case analogues (a Guttman scale of Placement Proneness) than other workers. The greatest variation in the placement decision occurred in the "mid-range" case, confirming the results in a number of other studies. Several of the social/demographic variables were also related to the workers' attitudes. and these variables as well as the workers' attitudes were related to the judgment of case elements and the decision to place a child. In order to determine the importance of the variables in explaining a workers' placement proneness score a number of regression analyses were performed. The worker's setting was shown to be a strong predictor of the placement proneness score. In addition, the worker's attitude toward preventive services, judgments of a number of case elements, attendance at courses, ethnicity and the client group with which he/she had contact were also found to be predictive of this score. A total of 34% of the variance in the placement proneness score and 48% of the variance in the placement decision on the mid-range case was explained by these variables. The research gave rise to the following recommendations: (1) the creation of educational preventive units which, at least initially, are administratively separate from the under care units of the agency and the establishment of new funding patterns in the foster care system in order to facilitate their creation; (2) the redefinition of jobs within the foster care system so as to encourage contact between all workers and all parties in· the foster care triangle; (3) the education and training of workers in the area of preventive services in order to increase the workers perceptions of their effectiveness; and (4) an increased emphasis in the training of workers on the skills needed to discern strengths in clients.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Fanshel, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 30, 2015