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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Factors precipitating agency care of children Dodd, Paul W.

Abstract

This study, undertaken at the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, B. C., was an attempt to isolate and identify certain social and environmental factors which precipitate agency care of children. Such a study should be of value to any Child Welfare Agency concerned with strengthening the family and maintaining the child, whenever possible, in his own home. The rationale for the study was based on three major assumptions: 1. that service to families and children in need of protection has been hampered by lack of foster home resources. 2. That in providing substitute care for children Child Welfare agencies have emphasized the psychological dynamics of the family situation, attributing the need for agency care to the personal pathology of one or more members, and have paid insufficient attention to the possibility that social and environmental conditions may have contributed to the need for foster home placement. 3. That whenever feasible the child should remain in his own home. In fomaulating these assumptions we were influenced by the findings of other researchers. Alfred Kadushin in his article "Introduction of New Orientations in Child Welfare Research" (The Known and Unknown in Child Welfare Research, Miriam Morris & Barbara Walters eds., Child Welfare League of America, N. Y., 1965) pleads for greater understanding of the social situation of families, since it is his opinion that adverse environmental conditions play a significant role in the placement of children. Similarly Jenkins and Sauber (Paths to Child Placement, Community Council of Greater New York, N. Y. City Department of Welfare, 1966) emphasize the importance of social conditions, particularly income, housing and health on a family's ability to remain together and function effectively. From both these research findings it was apparent that the provision of community resources such as homemaker service and day care centres could reduce the number of children requiring placement away from their own home by supporting and supplementing the family during periods of situational stress. With this in mind our study was to be concerned with identifying the social and environmental factors which played a role in developing conditions requiring agency care of children. In addition we were also concerned with the process that went on prior to agency contact, specifically how families coped with their adverse situations before accepting or requesting agency intervention. Such information would serve as a basis for developing community resources to increase the family's ability to withstand pressure and stress. We hypothesized that the findings of other researchers as mentioned above were as valid in Vancouver as elsewhere and should therefore be of equal concern to Child Welfare Agencies here. Our original design was to develop a schedule to provide data for testing the significance of certain social and environmental factors that we had identified by consulting the literature and agency personnel. The variables to be tested were: 1. Household composition 2. Housing 3. Neighbourhood 4. Health 5. Income 6. Employment 7. Education In order to discover the problem solving activities of the families in relation to these variables, coping questions were inserted into the schedule. These questions were designed to elicit information about the client's perception of the problem, his initial response and its effect, and the people and/or organizations he involved in his coping attempts. A draft schedule was devised to be administered over a one month period during the intake process to all persons requesting or referred for service with the exception of transients. The schedule was to be. readministered six months later and a comparison made to determine the differences, if any, between the social and environmental situations of those families whose children were placed and those families who remained together. Unfortunately at this time the agency was unable to participate in such a project and the administration of the schedule was abandoned. We were not free to take on this task ourselves and it had been our intention from the beginning to introduce a research element into the agency as part of professional practice by the involvement of personnel in this effort. We still believe that the agency would find the schedule useful and have included it in Appendix I with the recommendation that it be considered for inclusion in any future project in this area. As an alternative, agency personnel suggested that we examine existing Intake data to see if the information we sought might not be already available in the files. Thirty-six files were examined and thirteen workers consulted. We found that information regarding the variables was either inconsistently recorded or absent entirely. Where information regarding the coping patterns of these families was recorded it tended to be limited to the source of referral without any further elaboration. Our findings indicated that a review of agency records was not adequate for research purposes since the variables sought were not systematically recorded during the intake process. Time ran out on us following an examination of the files and we were unable to consult again with staff or to discuss alternative ways of obtaining the information. We did, however, make a number of recommendations based on our experience which may serve as a guide for continuing research in this area: 1. That an exploratory study be conducted using an interview schedule which includes the variables suggested above. Our draft schedule is available in the body of this report. 2. That the schedule be administered through the Intake Department with a follow-up study several months later. The use of an independent researcher seems to be warranted since agency personnel are not available to take on this added task due to time pressures of their own. 3. That the intake face sheet be revised to include in formation pertaining to the social and environmental situations of clients as an aid in identifying recurring patterns of stress that may necessitate substitute care of children.

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