As in Kentucky, we describe the sample of New Jersey families based on information from our first interviews with caretakers (n = 328, 74% of the 442 net study cases). Again, we describe the sample as a whole, identifying the variables on which the experimental and control groups were statistically different.
Table 6-5 summarizes a number of characteristics of New Jersey caretakers and families. Most (88%) of the caretakers were women. The sample was about evenly divided between whites and African Americans. Forty-seven percent were white, 42 percent African American (not Hispanic), 9 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent other. On average there were 4.7 persons in these families, 1.8 adults and 2.9 children. The average age of the respondents was 39 (n = 324, s.d. = 10.8), the youngest child in the family was, on average, 7.1 years old (n = 328, s.d. = 5.4), and the oldest child in the family, 12.5 (n = 328, s.d. = 4.3). The distribution of the age of the youngest child was 15 percent under 1 year, 26 percent between 1 and 4, 37 percent between 5 and 12, and 23 percent 13 and over. The distribution of the age of the oldest child was 2 percent under 1 year, 5 percent 1 to 4, 30 percent between 5 and 12, and 63 percent 13 and over.
About 9 percent of the respondents had no high school education, 40 percent some high school, 26 percent high school graduation or a GED, 20 percent at least some college education, and 4 percent had special education or vocational schooling (0.9% were unknown). Thirty percent of the respondents were married, 34 percent divorced or separated, 6 percent widowed, and 30 percent never married. At the time of the first interview, 41 percent were employed, 18 percent reported that they were unemployed and looking for work, and 41 percent were unemployed and not looking for work. Two hundred ninety-one respondents provided information about their household incomes, with significant differences between the experimental and control groups (p = .03). Fewer control group cases were at the middle of the income spectrum.13
Most (71%) of the respondents were birth mothers, 10 percent were biological fathers, 11 percent grandmothers, and the rest were other relatives, including step-relatives. Four of the respondents were adoptive mothers and two were adoptive fathers. As to household composition at the time of the first interview, 34 percent of the families were headed by birth mothers with no other adults in the home, 27 percent had a birth mother and one male adult, 8 percent had the birth mother with other extended family, 9 percent were headed by a single father, and 17 percent had another relative caretaker (4% of the families did not fall into one of these categories). Forty-three percent reported that they were living with a spouse or partner. Seventy percent of the respondents rented their homes. On none of these characteristics did the experimental and control groups differ significantly at the time of the first interview.14
|Gender of Caretaker/Respondent||328|
|Race of Caretaker/Respondent||327|
|African American (not Hispanic)||42|
|Caucasian (not Hispanic)||47|
|Respondent's education level||325|
|Elementary school or less||9.4|
|Some high school||40|
|High school graduate or obtained GED||26|
|Special education or vocational schooling||4.0|
|Respondent's marital status||328|
|Respondent's Relationship to youngest child||326|
|Birth mother, no other adults||34|
|Birth mother& 1 male adult||27|
|Birth mother& extended family*||8.2|
|Other relative caretaker*||17|
|Age of respondent||324||39.0|
|Age of youngest child||328||7.1|
|Age of oldest child||328||12.5|
|Number of Children||328||2.9|
|Number of adults||328||1.8|
* These categories may also include other non-related adults in the home
** Includes: Nonrelative caretaker, adoptive or step-parent, birth mother& non-related females, or birth mother, and more than one non-related male
Family Problems. Problems identified by New Jersey caretakers are summarized in Table 6-6. Emotional and financial problems were most often cited. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they had felt "blue or depressed," 52 percent said they felt nervous or tense, 56 percent were overwhelmed by work or family responsibilities, 33 percent said they had just wanted to give up sometime in the last month, and 27 percent said they had few or no friends. Over half (52%) responded affirmatively to the general question as to whether they experienced not having enough money for food or rent, and on more specific questions about difficulties paying bills, 29 percent said they had difficulty paying rent, 37 percent difficulty paying electric or heat bills, 30 percent difficulty buying food (on this item there was a significant difference between the groups, 26% of the experimental group vs. 36% of the control group, p = .04), and 45 percent difficulty buying clothes for their children. Few respondents reported problems in drinking or using drugs (only 0.9% said they "had too much to drink in the last week" and 0.9% said they used drugs several times in a week). Only 3 percent said they had gotten into trouble with the law. Most (93%) thought they were "doing a pretty good job raising [their] kids."
|Problems||Percent responding yes|
|Felt blue or depressed||58|
|Felt nervous or tense||52|
|Just wanted to give up||33|
|Overwhelmed with work or family responsibility||56|
|Felt you had few or no friends||27|
|Not enough money for food, rent, or clothing||52|
|Gotten in trouble with the law||3|
|Had too much to drink in a week||1|
|Used drugs several times a week||1|
|Had difficulty paying rent||29|
|Had difficulty paying electric/heat||37|
|Had difficulty buying enough food||30|
|Had difficulty buying clothes||45|
|Have you felt happy||80|
|Gotten together with anyone to have fun/relax||46|
|Doing a pretty good job raising kids||93|
Table 6-7 shows problems of children identified by caretakers. About four-fifths of caretakers said at least one child in the family threw tantrums and about three-fourths said a child "gets upset easily." School problems were common; over 40 percent had been absent a lot or failed classes and nearly a third had been suspended. Aggressive behavior was common, 40 percent of caretakers said a child fights a lot with other kids and 56 percent said a child was very aggressive toward them.
Caretaker Abuse or Neglect as a Child. Twenty-eight percent of New Jersey caretakers reported having been abused as a child and 25 percent reported having been neglected. Twenty-one percent answered "yes" to both questions, and overall, 32 percent of the caretakers reported having been abused, neglected, or both as a child. Fourteen percent of the respondents had been in a foster home or institution. There was little difference between the experimental and control groups in these previous experiences.
|Asked about all children...|
|Child went through alcohol withdrawal at birth||315||5|
|Child went through drug withdrawal when born||315||6|
|Child doesn't show much interest in what is going on||321||20|
|Child is Smaller/Lighter than other children||326||14|
|Child Get(s) upset easily||325||74|
|Asked for children over 3 months old...|
|Is/Are Funny and makes you laugh||325||90|
|Like(s) to share things with others||321||80|
|Is/Are shy and withdrawn||325||33|
|Is/Are outgoing and friendly||324||92|
|Is/Are good looking||325||99|
|Fight(s) a lot with other kids||317||40|
|Has/Have language problems||314||26|
|Asked for children over 4 years old...|
|Is/Are very aggressive toward you||304||56|
|Has/Have a special talent in music||305||44|
|Is/Are good at sports||302||69|
|Usually does the right thing||304||65|
|Hangs with friends you don't like||303||49|
|In the past 3 months, has any child you care for...|
|Gone to church regularly||306||37|
|Been absent from school a lot||300||42|
|Run away from home overnight||304||26|
|Been temporarily suspended from school||303||32|
|Been expelled from school||303||9|
|Taken care of younger children||288||37|
|Took something that didn't belong||304||42|
|Absent from school/no good reason||301||27|
|Received special education at school||304||55|
|Failed any classes||294||41|
|Asked for any child over age 7...|
|In the last 3 months, has any child been arrested||283||16|
|Asked only for children over age 10...|
|Has child age 11 or older had alcohol problems||237||13|
|Has child age 11 or older had a drug problem||236||17|
|Has any girl age 12 to 18 been pregnant||160||4|
|Has any boy age 14 to 18 fathered a child||75||3|
Previous Allegations and Placement. Of the 434 New Jersey families for which we had administrative data, 89 percent had an allegation of maltreatment prior to the date of referral to family preservation services. Sixty-four percent had a substantiated report of maltreatment prior the referral date.15
We have data for 369 cases on the type of allegation just before the last case opening before referral. Forty-two percent of the cases had allegations of physical abuse, 11 percent of lack of supervision, 20 percent of other neglect, 5 percent of sexual abuse, and 5 percent of emotional abuse (cases could fall in more than one of these categories). In 22 percent of the cases, there was no abuse or neglect found before the case opening.
Similar to the analysis of Kentucky data, we examined reports of maltreatment before the allegation prior to the referral to family preservation services, as an indication of prior involvement with the child welfare system. Of the 386 families with allegations prior to referral, 205 (53%) had a substantiated report of maltreatment before that, indicating that about half of the families had previous involvement with the system.
As to substitute care placement, 191 children in 94 families had previously experienced placement. Eighteen of these children were in 5 adoptive homes and the referral to family preservation services was for the purpose of preserving the adoptive home. For the remaining 173 children, the average length of time between the end of the previous placement and random assignment was 53.5 months. The average length of time in that placement spell was 12.9 months.16 Seventy percent of the first placements in the previous placement spell were foster family care, the remainder were residential treatment, shelter care, group homes, and institutions. There was a difference between the experimental groups in the previous placement experience of children, with control group children averaging 85 days and the experimental group children averaging 104 days (a nonsignificant difference).
Length of Time from Case Opening to Referral to Family Preservation. On 434 New Jersey cases for which we have administrative data, 13 cases were not open at the time of the referral to family preservation services. Two of these 13 cases were opened within 30 days after the referral, and two were opened within 2 to 6 months after the referral. The remaining 9 cases had not been opened as of the last date of observation for these analyses (August 31, 1998). In 34 percent of the 421 cases open at the time of random assignment, the referral to family preservation services occurred within a month after case opening while in another 33 percent it came between two and six months after case opening. In 21 percent of the cases the referral occurred more than a year after case opening. The administrative data also recorded reports of maltreatment prior to random assignment for 386 families. In 37 percent of these cases, the report occurred in the month prior to referral, in another 28 percent it came between two and six months prior. In 25 percent the report occurred more than a year before referral.
Social Program Participation. Table 6-8 shows the rates of participation by New Jersey families in social programs. About half of the respondents reported having received food stamps; two-fifths, AFDC; a third, social security disability; and a fifth, WIC. About a third had been in a community mental health program and two-fifths had had children in Head Start or another pre-school program. Very few had been in alcohol or drug treatment or marriage counseling. The experimental and control groups differed significantly only with regard to job training, 2 percent of the control group and 8 percent of the experimental group had been in such a program (p = .01).
|Social Security Disability||31|
|Drug Treatment Program||6|
|Community Mental Health program||31|
(13) Fifteen percent of control group respondents and 17% of experimental group respondents reported an income less than $5,000; 32% control and 22% experimental reported between $5,000 and $10,000; 15% control and 31% experimental reported between $10,000 and $20,000; 24% control and 18% experimental reported between $20,000 and $40,000, and 14% control and 12% experimental reported an income of $40,000 or more.
(14) Control group respondents more often lived with a spouse or partner, 43% vs. 35%, p = .13.
(15) In the New Jersey administrative data, there are 7 possible outcomes of investigations of maltreatment: abuse/neglect/injury confirmed perpetrator, abuse/neglect/injury unconfirmed perpetrator, abuse/neglect/injury perpetrator unknown, unsubstantiated incident, unsubstantiated incident with concern, incident never occurred, and no outcome. The data above concern only persons who were children at the time of random assignment. The administrative data also record information on previous allegations involving persons who are now adults. Seventy-four adults (persons 18 or over at the time of random assignment) from 51 families had been the subjects of previous substantiated reports of maltreatment.
(16) By a "spell" we mean a period of time in placement which may consist of one or more distinct placements in different foster homes or in other settings.