Child Welfare Casework With Nonresident Fathers of Children in Foster Care. Caseworker Training, Gender, and Opinions


Significant differences were found in methods used to locate fathers between workers who received training and those who did not receive training related to fathers. Most of the caseworker respondents (70%) noted having received training on engaging fathers, though this could have been either a specialized training or material presented as part of a more generic training session. This finding contrasts with previous research that has noted a lack of training on fathers. Workers who reported having received training were more likely than other workers to report seeking help from the father's relatives or from another worker, and were more likely to have searched public aid records and phone books for information on the father's whereabouts.

Workers reporting training on fathers were more likely to involve fathers in the case. Workers who received training were more likely than other workers to report sharing the case plan with the father and seeking financial assistance from him as part of the case plan. These workers were also more likely to report that the agency considered placement with the father and that the father had expressed interest in the child living with him.

Male and female caseworkers report similar casework practices. Previous research examining caseworker gender and father involvement has shown some differences between male and female caseworkers. In this study, however, male and female caseworkers were equally likely to have shared the case plan with the father, told the father his child was in out-of-home placement, and to report that the father had expressed an interest in living with his child. Male and female caseworkers had similar percentages of cases with fathers who had contact with the agency and fathers who visited with their children since case opening. However, male caseworkers were somewhat more likely to report that fathers had been considered as a placement resource.

Caseworkers hold mixed opinions about the involvement of nonresident fathers. While the majority of caseworkers surveyed (72%) agree that involving nonresident fathers enhances a child's well being, even more (82%) agree that fathers need help with parenting skills. Only about half of caseworkers (53%) believe that nonresident fathers want to be part of decision making for their children. A bit less than half (44%) believe that dealing with nonresident fathers makes a case more complicated, and 6% expressed the opinion that "working with nonresident fathers is more trouble than it's worth." Figure 4 presents this information graphically.

Figure 4.
Caseworkers' Opinions About Nonresident Fathers

Figure 4. Caseworkers' Opinions About Nonresident Fathers.

Caseworker opinions do not seem to influence the likelihood of contacting and engaging nonresident fathers. When workers were grouped according to their responses to the opinion questions,(1) those with varying opinions about fathers reported similar percentages of cases in which the fathers were told of the child's out-of-home placement and in which the case plan was shared with the father. However, workers with more positive opinions were more likely than other workers to report cases in which the agency had considered placing the child with the father.

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