Birth parent involvement at an agency level in child welfare: how birth parents in parent partner roles perceive the development and use of their voice to influence system change

Damman, Jeri (2018) Birth parent involvement at an agency level in child welfare: how birth parents in parent partner roles perceive the development and use of their voice to influence system change. In: 22nd Annual Conference, the Society for Social Work and Research Conference, January 10-14 2018, Washington, D.C., USA.

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:
Within the child welfare (CW) system, birth parent involvement at an agency level is an emerging national trend. Agency-level involvement, where birth parents share their perspective in committees and forums to inform CW system improvements, is a key component of parent partner programs where parents who work as mentors, also represent the parent voice at an agency level. Parent involvement may offer new insight on how to resolve child maltreatment concerns, but little is known about how agency-level involvement is reflected in practice, or what it achieves. This study aims to obtain a deeper understanding of agency-level involvement to inform the development of meaningful involvement practices. Research questions explored the perspectives of parents in parent partner/coordinator roles who are involved at an agency level, specifically what factors contributed to their involvement, how their involvement was reflected in practice, what they hoped to achieve, and how their involvement contributed to CW system improvements.

Methods:
The study used an exploratory qualitative research design (Patton,2015; Padgett 1998). Two sites were selected based on their status as national leaders in parent partner programs. All birth parents in their role for at least six months were invited to participate. Parent partners (n=20) participated in in-depth telephone interviews and Coordinators (n=8) participated in focus groups using a semi-structured interview guide. The final sample was predominantly White, Non-Hispanic (92%) mothers (70%) aged 32 to 60 (M=42) years. Participants experienced multiple and complex social problems, with substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health difficulties the most common reasons for prior CW involvement. Most participants (96%) were previously receiving CW services for neglect, and 93% experienced child removal. Data was transcribed and themes identified through constant comparison using NVivo 11. Trustworthiness criteria were credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability.

Results:
Data revealed factors and processes that support parents to find their voice in agency level involvement activities. Parents reported initial uncertainty in the purpose and value of their contribution, followed by an eventual realization of the power of their message. Trial and error was used to learn effective strategies to share their perspective, with parents adapting their approach as needed. Many parents integrated “recovery thinking,” which reflected an involvement approach with professionals that was strengths-based and collaborative. Effective involvement strategy themes were transparency, recognizing the perspective of others, and building relationships. Once mastery was achieved, many parents described transitioning from involvement to supporting other parents to ensure continued innovation and sustainability in involvement activities.

Conclusions and Implications:
Parent involvement at an agency level, despite gaining traction in the child welfare field, remains a nascent area of research. This study provides new and important insight into parents’ perceptions of how their agency-level involvement develops and influences system change. Findings highlight approaches and techniques used by parents to establish and strengthen their voice in involvement activities, as well as which approaches they perceive as meaningful and effective. This study identifies practice and policy implications to promote meaningful involvement among some of the most vulnerable parents in society.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: L Education
Depositing User: Deeptima Massey
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2018 13:37
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2018 13:42
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78766
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