Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 6.2 Caretakers' Levels of Support


In order to get a rough estimate of the levels of support that might be available to caretakers, we created composite scores for each of the three kinds of support. These composite scores are the products of whether each instance of emotional, instrumental, or informational support available from each supporter (scored 0 - 1) and the frequency of contact with the supporter (scored 1 - 4), summed across supporters. (100) A total support score was computed by simply summing the three (emotional, instrumental, and informational) composite scores for each supporter. Using this scoring scheme, the maximum level of total support available from any one supporter is twelve. For instance, a friend who gave the maximum amount of total support would provide all three types of support and have daily contact with the caretakers. For any single type of support, the maximum level of support available from any one supporter is four.

Table 6-2 summarizes the levels of support that was available to caretakers at the initial interview in several ways. The upper portion of the state tables describe the average total, emotional, instrumental, and informational supports that caretakers reported were available to them from all members of their support networks. The lower portion of the tables summarize the levels of support that were available to caretakers from each of six groups of supporters -- partners, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. The levels of support that were available from family and friends are presented in two ways. The first set of columns provides the average support that was available to caretakers from each group of supporters. The average mean support, presented in the next to the last column, takes into account that caretakers could report several brothers, sisters, and friends, but only one mother, father, and partner. Whereas average support summarizes the contribution to total support from each supporter group, average mean support is the total support available averaged across members of a supporter group. Again, the maximum amount of support available from any one supporter is twelve.

Looking first at the upper portion of the table, we note that the average levels of support across the three types are very similar. In fact, the three types of supports are highly correlated -- emotional-informational, r = .93, emotional-instrumental, r = .80, and informational-instrumental, r = .80 -- so that if a caretaker had available one type of support, he or she usually had the other types available as well. However, the average levels of emotional and informational supports were somewhat greater than was the availability of instrumental support from all supporters, suggesting that members of the caretakers' support networks may have been better able to assist in ways that did not require their labor or strain their material resources.

Table 6-2
Average and Average Mean Support at Initial Interview
New Jersey
Support at Initial Interview Average Support Average Mean Support
    N M p M p
Total C 131 34.9      
E 197 34.3      
Emotional C 131 13.0      
E 197 12.7      
Instrumental C 131 9.4      
E 197 9.1      
Informational C 131 12.5      
E 197 12.4      
Partner C 56 9.9   9.9  
E 69 9.0   9.0  
Mother C 93 5.2   5.2  
E 116 5.0   5.0  
Father C 61 4.1   4.1  
E 89 3.3   3.3  
Sisters C 103 8.4   3.5  
E 161 7.9   3.7  
Brothers C 87 6.3   2.3  
E 145 5.7   2.5  
Friends C 96 19.5   7.9  
E 160 19.8   7.6  
Support at Initial Interview   Average Support Average Mean Support
    N M p M p
Total C 155 41.1      
E 155 36.3 .05    
Emotional C 155 15.1      
E 155 13.6      
Instrumental C 155 11.5      
E 155 9.9 .05    
Informational C 155 14.5      
E 155 12.8 .04    
Partner C 56 9.5   9.5  
E 51 10.8 .02 10.8 .02
Mother C 132 5.9   5.9  
E 124 5.2   5.2  
Father C 92 3.8   3.8  
E 97 3.6   3.6  
Sisters C 117 8.9   4.5  
E 100 6.8   3.5  
Brothers C 112 5.6   3.5  
E 109 4.9   3.6  
Friends C 144 21.1   8.0  
E 142 20.2   7.8  
Support at Initial Interview   Average Support Average Mean Support
    N M p M p
Total C 37 39.5      
E 79 44.2      
Emotional C 37 13.8      
E 79 15.3      
Instrumental C 37 13.1      
E 79 14.3      
Informational C 37 12.7      
E 79 14.6      
Partner C 7 9.7   9.7  
E 28 10.7   10.7  
Mother C 24 8.4   8.4  
E 58 6.5   6.5  
Father C 23 3.8   3.8  
E 39 4.2   4.2  
Sisters C 28 10.8   4.8  
E 58 13.4   5.8  
Brothers C 30 9.3   4.3  
E 57 7.7   3.7  
Friends C 32 16.4   8.5  
E 70 20.5   9.1  
Support at Initial Interview   Average Support Average Mean Support
    N M p M p
Total C 107 40.3      
E 156 35.3      
Emotional C 107 14.5      
E 156 12.3 .05    
Instrumental C 107 12.5      
E 156 11.4      
Informational C 107 13.3      
E 156 11.7      
Partner C 25 9.8   9.8  
E 34 8.7   8.7  
Mother C 87 5.0   5.0  
E 120 5.0   5.0  
Father C 66 3.9   3.9  
E 87 3.5   3.5  
Sisters C 79 10.0   4.8  
E 117 7.4   4.9  
Brothers C 82 8.2   3.9  
E 117 5.1 .02 3.1  
Friends C 84 20.9   8.8  
E 127 20.7   127 8.8

The smaller amount of financial and instrumental support that is available from members of low-income individuals' support networks has been documented in other research. For instance, in a study of the supports that were available to former General Assistance recipients, Henly (1994) found that emotional support was provided most often, followed by informational, instrumental, and lastly financial support. Given that, in these studies, the recipients of support had very limited incomes, the relative positions of the various forms of support in the support hierarchy most likely reflect network members' capacity to provide the different kinds of assistance rather than the recipients' particular set of needs.

Examining the average contributions of supporter groups to total support, friends, partners, and sisters were the largest contributors to caretakers' overall support. As groups, brothers, mothers, and fathers contribute somewhat less to total support, but the lower levels of support that is contributed by mothers and fathers is partly attributable to the smaller numbers of supporters in these groups. When support is averaged across members of supporter groups, the positions of mothers and sisters in the supporter hierarchy shifts. Considering the support that was available from individual members of a supporter group, on average, partners, friends, and mothers were perceived to contribute higher levels of support than siblings and fathers.

Comparing the control and experimental groups, at the initial interview there were no differences in the levels of supports between the groups in either New Jersey or Tennessee. But in Pennsylvania, the control group had significantly more emotional support available than the experimental group (p = .05), and more overall brother support (p = .02). In Kentucky, control group members had significantly more instrumental (p = .05), informational (p = .04), and total support (p =.05) available, but the experimental group reported the availability of more support from partners (p = .02). The general similarity in support across the control and experimental groups at the initial interview was expected since randomization should assure that the groups are not different prior to receiving services.

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