Evaluation of the New York City Home Rebuilders Demonstration. 3.2.1 Caretaker Interview Sample Description

09/14/1998

In a sample of the cases included in the administrative data analysis, caretakers and their caseworkers were interviewed. The interviews were designed to provide data on services delivered to the families and children and on child and family functioning following the experiment.

Services were examined in order to describe the activities undertaken on behalf of these families and to determine differences between experimental and comparison groups in those activities. At the outset of the project, it was intended that the experimental group would receive more intensive services directed at reunifying the children or bringing about other permanent arrangements. The analysis aimed at determining whether, in fact, the services provided to the two groups were different.

The effects of the experimental intervention on child and family functioning was also examined. It is not entirely clear how one should think about child and family functioning as an outcome of this effort. On the one hand, it would seem that any new program should strive to enhance the functioning of the clients it serves and should be judged at least in part on the extent to which improvement occurs. On the other hand, the primary intervention in HomeRebuilders was a fiscal one, directed at lowering the number of days in foster care. Hence, one might view the program as a success if care days were lowered while functioning was not negatively affected.

The sample of cases for caretaker and caseworker interviews was restricted to cases that had a goal at the beginning of the experiment of return home and at least one child under 13 years of age. Thus, the interview sample is not parallel to the entire group of cases analyzed in the previous section. Furthermore, strictly speaking, the experimental and control group interview samples cannot be considered to have been randomly assigned, in part because response rates were not perfect (see Appendix A) and may have led to some differences between experimental and control groups in the families actually interviewed. In addition, the process of determining the caretaker to be interviewed may have resulted in differences between groups in the characteristics of the interviewees. Interviews were held with caretakers in both the experimental and comparison groups in HD, LF, MM, and OTT. Caretakers in the comparison groups in NYF and JC were not interviewed (there was no comparison group in JC). Because of the complexity of some cases, the determination of the caretaker to be interviewed required detailed rules, which are given in Appendix A. A total of 433 caretakers were interviewed. Thirty percent were birth parents, 26 percent relatives, and 43 percent nonrelatives. There were 52 percent adoptive or preadoptive respondents and 11 percent foster parents. Relative adoptive or preadoptive caretakers accounted for 14 percent, nonrelative adoptive or preadoptive for 38 percent. Relatively few respondents were foster parents. The breakdown of respondent category by agency and experimental group is shown in Table 3-11.

Table 3-11.  Caretaker respondent type by agency and experimental group (percents)

Respondent Type HD LF MM OTT JC NYF Total
  C E C E C E C E E E  
Birth parent-all children in home 14 12 20 34 26 20 26 26 26 24 23
Other birth parent 5 6 13 9 5 7 13 5 6 14 8
Adoptive or preadoptive relative 10 16 5 3 17 25 -- 13 23 18 14
Adoptive or preadoptive nonrelative 52 47 43 31 33 39 42 37 30 28 38
Foster parent or other relative 19 18 20 23 19 8 19 18 15 16 17
Total % 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Total (N) (42) (49) (40) (35) (42) (59) (31) (38) (47) (50) (433)

Within agencies, there were relatively few differences between experimental and comparison groups. In OTT, no comparison group cases were adoptive or preadoptive relatives, while 13 percent of the experimental group was in that category. In MM, 19 percent of the control group were foster parents or nonadoptive relatives, while 8 percent of the experimental group was in that category. In LF, there are two important differences between the experimental and control group -- more experimental group respondents were birth parents (with or without all of the children having been returned; 34% of the experimental group vs. 20% for the control group) and fewer were adoptive or preadoptive nonrelatives (31% vs. 43%).

There were some differences across agencies. HD had fewer birth parents and more adoptive or preadoptive nonrelatives than other agencies. NYF had fewer adoptive and preadoptive nonrelatives, while LF had fewer adoptive and preadoptive relatives.

Respondent Characteristics. The respondents were 95 percent women, 72 percent African American, 24 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent white (2 respondents were an "other" race-ethnicity). As shown in Table 3-12, race/ethnicity varied by agency.

JC and NYF had fewer African American and more Hispanic respondents than the other agencies. In HD, LF, and MM, the race/ethnicity distributions in the control and experimental groups were very similar. In OTT, there were more African American respondents in the experimental group (84%) than the comparison group (65%) and fewer Hispanic respondents (11% in experimental group, 32% in comparison group).

Table 3-12.  Respondent ethnicity by agency (percents)

Race/Ethnicity HD LF MM OTT JC NYF Total
African American 73 83 82 75 57 44 72
Hispanic 25 12 16 20 38 48 24
Other 2 5 2 4 4 8 4
Total % 100% 100% 100% 99% 99% 99% 100%
Total N (91) (75) (101) (69) (47) (50) (433)

Note:  Due to rounding percentages may not always equal 100%.

The average age of respondents was 46 (s.d.: 11.8). The average size of the respondents' households was 5.3, with an average of 3.5 children. Forty-nine percent of the children in the homes were female. The median age of the youngest child was 4 (mean of 4.9), the oldest, 12 (mean 11.5). Thirty-two percent of the respondents were married, 21 percent single, 23 percent never married, and divorced and widowed accounted for 12 percent each. Birth parents were more likely to be never married (45%) and less likely to be married (20%). In MM, 52 percent of the control group were married and 17 percent never married compared to 32 percent and 15 percent in the experimental group. Sixty percent of the respondents had less than a high school education, 15 percent had graduated from high school, and 24 percent had at least some college. There were no strong differences in education by type of respondent, although adoptive relatives and foster parents/other relatives more often had an 8th grade or less education (19% and 14% respectively, compared to 7% of birth parents and other adoptive parents). There were some differences in caretaker education among agencies and between experimental and control groups within agencies as shown in Table 3-13. Within the true experimental agencies, the control group in MM had a larger proportion of cases with eighth grade or less than the experimental group, although the numbers are quite small (7 versus 2). In LF, the experimental group had lower levels of education than the control group while in HD the opposite was true. These differences may have affected the comparison of the experimental and control groups on outcomes that are reported below.

Table 3-13.  Respondent educational level by agency and experimental group (percents)

  HD LF MM OTT JC NYF TOTAL
  C E C E C E C E E E
8th grade or less 15 8 5 15 17 3 7 5 7 24 11
Some high school 49 42 55 62 38 44 63 61 60 42 50
High school graduate or GED 20 10 8 12 19 20 23 13 9 14 15
Some college or vocational school 5 25 25 9 19 22 3 18 20 14 17
College Graduate 12 15 8 3 7 10 3 3 4 6 7
Total % 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Total N (41) (48) (40) (34) (42) (59) (30) (38) (45) (50) (427)

A majority (52%) of respondents reported they were unemployed and not looking for work (45% of birth parents, 60% of adoptive relatives, 53% of other adoptive parents, and 56% of foster parents/other relatives), 34 percent were employed, and 14 percent were looking for work. Birth parents were a bit more evenly split among these three categories (45%, 27%, and 28%). There were some differences among agencies (Table 3-14). There were no strong differences between experimental and ccomparison groups within agencies, except in LF where 38 percent of the control group were employed and 40 percent not looking for work compared to 20 percent and 57 percent in the experimental group: (again, this difference may have affected comparisons in LF). Most (75%) of the respondents rented their residences, including 93 percent of birth parents, 76 percent of relatives, and 62 percent of nonrelatives.

Table 3-14.  Respondent employment status by agency (percents)

Employment Status HD LF MM OTT JC NYF Total
Employed 31 29 43 41 28 24 34
Unemployed and looking for work 10 23 12 8 20 14 14
Unemployed and not looking 59 48 45 51 52 62 52
Total % 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Total N (90) (75) (100) (66) (46) (50) (427)

Summary. Consistent with the characteristics of the child sample, most respondents were African American or Hispanic. Nearly all were women and their average age was 46. Their households tended to be large, an average of over 5 members including 3.5 children. More than one-half of the respondents had less than a high school education. Only about one-third were employed and another one-seventh were looking for work.

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