Mothers Involved with Child Welfare: Service Needs, Socio-demographics, and Psychosocial Characteristics Source: Marcenko, M.O., Lyons, S.J. & Courtney, M. (2011). Mothers’ experiences, resources and needs: The context for reunification. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(3), 431-438. Reviewed by: Eavan Brady This study builds on existing research regarding the needs of families involved with the child welfare system and provides a strong basis for effectively targeting support services. Service needs, socio-demographics, and psychosocial characteristics of a large representative sample of child welfare involved mothers were examined using standardized measures in face-to-face interviews.
The authors conducted face-to-face, structured interviews with mothers involved with the child welfare system (n=747); children remaining in the care community (n=318) and children living in out-of-home care (n=429). Interviews were conducted using a structured questionnaire that measured demographic characteristics, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse, trauma, parenting stress, financial hardship, and services received and needed. Univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted in order to describe the overall sample and compare the experiences of mothers whose child(ren) had been placed in out-of-home care or remained living in care of their caregivers of origin.
Results indicate that 70% of participants were unemployed and 46% had an annual household income of less than $10,000. A significantly larger proportion of participants whose child(ren) was living in out-of-home care had an income of less than $10,000 as compared to participants whose child(ren) remained in the home. Participants whose children were living in out-of-home care were more likely to have used a food bank or meal program, been evicted or moved in with family or friends, and to have been homeless. Further, 57% of the sample met the clinical criteria for one or more assessed mental health disorders. Depression (47%) and anxiety (40%) were most prevalent. Criteria for substance abuse/dependence in the past 12 months were met by 30% of the participants and 23% met the criteria for co-occurring substance abuse. Over half of the participants (58%) reported being sexually abused as a child and 35% had experienced domestic violence. Larger numbers of participants whose child(ren) were living in out-of-home care had substance abuse issues, co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders and had experienced domestic violence.
A majority of participants needed assistance with getting enough food, transportation, and clothing and approximately half required financial assistance and help finding a place to live. Further, over one third of participants reported needing assistance obtaining education and finding or maintaining a job. Significantly larger proportions of mothers whose child(ren) were living in out-of-home care required assistance with the aforementioned services. Additionally, mothers whose child(ren) was living in out-of-home care were also significantly less likely than those whose child(ren) who remained in the community to have had their service needs met in the following areas: clothing, housing, transportation, education, financial, employment, and food. Moreover, a significantly greater proportion of mothers with children living in out-of-home care than those with children living in the community required services. However, fewer mothers received these services than needed them. Methodological notes: The sample only included mothers within 30 to 120 days within case and was drawn from one U.S. state, thus limiting generalizability. The study relies on self-reports which may lead to reporting error and/or social desirability bias.
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