Child Welfare Casework With Nonresident Fathers of Children in Foster Care. Identifying and Locating Nonresident Fathers

12/01/2006

The majority of nonresident fathers are identified early in a case. Approximately two-thirds of nonresident fathers are identified at the time of case opening or very shortly thereafter. Only 17% are identified more than 30 days after the case was opened, and contact with fathers not identified within the first month is very unlikely.

Efforts used by caseworkers to locate fathers vary widely. As shown in figure 2, caseworkers usually consulted the child's mother when information about the father's location was not known at case opening. Although a wide variety of other sources were sometimes consulted, there was no consistency in the use of these other methods. No source other than the mother was used in more than about one-third of cases. Only 34% of school age children were asked whether they knew anything about their fathers' whereabouts.

Figure 2.
Methods Used to Locate Nonresident Fathers

(for identified fathers whose location was not known at case opening, N=802)

Figure 2. Methods Used to Locate Nonresident Fathers.

Caseworkers report little use of child support agency locator resources. Overall, caseworkers reported use of their state's parent locator services in 35% of the study cases and the Federal Parent Locator Service in 7% of cases. While over 60% of caseworkers noted that their agency encouraged referrals to child support for help in locating the father, in only 20% of cases in which the father had not been located did the worker make such a referral. There was a great deal of state variation in these practices, however. Case-level results show overwhelmingly that in comparison to workers in the other study states, Arizona workers reported high levels of use of the state locator services (79% compared to 3-13 percent in the other states). Also, while a significant portion of caseworkers (70%) reported receiving training on identifying, locating, and involving nonresident fathers, less than one third (32%) noted specific training on referring cases to child support for help in locating nonresident fathers.

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