Most families in the study had birth mothers as the primary caretakers. About half of these women had not graduated from high school. Half of the households in Tennessee were headed by a single-birth mother, compared to 43 percent in Kentucky, and 34 percent in New Jersey (seeTable 2).
|Gender of Caretaker/Respondent||311||328||117|
|Race of Caretaker/Respondent||310||327||116|
|African American (not Hispanic)||43||42||83|
|Caucasian (not Hispanic)||55||47||15|
|Respondent's education level||311||325||116|
|Elementary school or less||9||9||9|
|Some high school||44||40||46|
|High school graduate or obtained GED||32||26||18|
|Special education or vocational schooling||1||4||4|
|Respondent's marital status||310||328||117|
|Respondent's relationship to youngest child||292||326||117|
|Birth mother, no other adults||43||34||50|
|Birth mother & 1 male adult||24||27||21|
|Birth mother & extended family *||9||8||14|
|Biological father *||6||9||6|
|Other relative caretaker *||7||17||9|
|Age of respondent||306||33||324||39||116||33|
|Age of youngest||311||5||328||7||117||4|
|Age of oldest child||311||10||328||13||117||11|
|Number of kids||311||3||328||3||117||3|
|Number of adults||311||2||328||2||117||2|
* These categories may also include other non-related adults in the home
** Includes: non-relative caretaker, adoptive or step-parent, birth mother & non-related females, or birth mother, and more than one non-related male.
At the time of referral to the Family Preservation program, families were experiencing a range of problems, some quite severe, others much less so (see Table 3). Examples included one case with children ages 10 and 12 who were not enrolled in school for nearly a month and were at risk of being removed from their home due to truancy and neglect. Another family was living in a home with no electricity, no heat, no food, no working appliances, a non-working toilet which was full of feces, and all 4 children slept in one bed. And yet another involved children who were sexually abused and who displayed extremely violent, uncontrollable and sexually inappropriate behavior at home and school. Although there was considerable diversity of problems, parental mental health and problematic child behavior were common issues.
At the time of the first interview, approximately half of the caretakers self-reported feelings of depression or stress. In Kentucky and New Jersey, approximately half of the caretakers answered affirmatively to each of three questions about emotional difficulties: "feeling blue or depressed," "feeling nervous or tense," and "feeling overwhelmed with work or family responsibility." Caretakers in Tennessee reported these difficulties at an even higher rate. Substantial proportions of caretakers reported behavioral problems in children. Between 60 and 74 percent said at least one of their children got upset easily, and two-thirds to four-fifths indicated that the children threw tantrums. Many said their children fight a lot with other kids (18% to 40%) and were very aggressive with their parents (18% to 43%). A number had problems in school, between 30 and 42 percent had children who had been suspended from school while 9 to 16 percent had children who had been expelled.
|Felt blue or depressed||55||58||62|
|Felt nervous or tense||56||52||53|
|Just wanted to give up||31||33||28|
|Overwhelmed with work or family responsibility||47||56||46|
|Not enough money for food, rent, or clothing||49||52||56|
|Participation in AFDC, food stamps, WIC, social security disability, or housing vouchers||82||68||80|
|Child Problems (%s of cases for which the question was relevant)|
|Child doesn't show much interest in what is going on||84||20||29|
|Child Get(s) upset easily||69||74||60|
|Fight(s) a lot with other kids||33||40||18|
|Has/Have language problems||30||26||25|
|Is/Are very aggressive toward you||43||56||18|
|Hangs with friends you don't like||28||49||44|
|Been absent from school a lot||38||42||27|
|Run away from home overnight||10||26||21|
|Been temporarily suspended from school||30||32||42|
|Been expelled from school||11||9||16|
|Took something that didn't belong to him or her||34||42||27|
|Absent from school for no good reason||30||27||18|
|Failed any classes||27||41||38|
Half or more of the respondents in all three states indicated that they did not have enough money for food, rent, or clothing. About two-thirds of the respondents in New Jersey and Tennessee reported they participated in at least 1 of the 5 income support programs: AFDC, food stamps, WIC, social security disability, and housing vouchers. In Kentucky, over 80 percent participated in one of these programs.
A number of families had previous involvement with the child welfare system. In Tennessee, 41 percent had previous substantiated allegations of abuse or neglect compared to 47 percent in Kentucky and 53 percent in New Jersey. In Kentucky and New Jersey, a fifth of the families had children who had previously been in foster care placement. In Tennessee, only 4 families had children who had previously been placed.
It might be noted that no mention is made here of substance abuse problems, thought by many to be a major issue in many families involved with the child welfare system. Very few caretakers admitted to alcohol or substance abuse in our initial interviews (fewer than five percent said they had either alcohol or drug problems except in Tennessee, where 8% said they "used drugs several times a week"). These are likely underestimates of the extent of substance misuse in the samples. However, states had policies regarding referrals to family preservation that may have limited the number of families with these problems. For example, New Jersey believed that family preservation should be used cautiously for substance abuse problems. Its FPS policy manual suggested that it is unlikely that a substance abuse problem can be resolved in a 5-6 week period. In Kentucky, families in which a drug dependent adult was not in active treatment were excluded from the program.