Study of Fathers' Involvement in Permanency Placement Planning and Child Welfare Casework (2004-2005)
Dataset Number: 122
Urban Institute- Karin Malm, Robert Geen, and Timothy Triplett
Most foster children are not living with their fathers at the time they are removed from their homes. While in foster care these children may experience even less contact with their nonresident fathers. This study examined child welfare practices with respect to identifying, locating, and involving fathers of children in foster care including whether child support resources were used. Local agency caseworkers were interviewed by phone about nearly 2,000 foster children in four study states. The study found that nonresident fathers are not often involved in case planning and nearly half were never contacted by the child welfare agency. The study was conducted in four states, Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Tennessee, using three methods of data collection-interviews with child welfare administrators, case-level data collection through interviews with caseworkers, and data linkage between child welfare and child support systems. Of the three components, only the case-level data collected through interviews with caseworkers was contributed to the Archive.
Investigators interviewed local agency caseworkers about particular cases between October 2004 and February 2005 to examine front-line practices related to nonresident fathers. Cases were selected from among children who had been in foster care for at least 3 months but no more than 36 months. Children in the sample were all in foster care for the first time (first placement episode), and the child welfare agency's records indicated that each of the children's biological fathers were alive but not living in the home from which the child was removed. Additionally, only one child per mother was eligible for the study. Data on 1,958 eligible cases (83% response rate) were collected through telephone interviews with 1,222 caseworkers. The nonresident fathers of the children sampled represent a varied group. While most caseworkers, at the time of the interview, knew the identity of the fathers of children in the study's sample (88%), paternity had not yet been established for over one-third of the total sample's children (37%). A comparison with mothers found that demographic characteristics of identified nonresident fathers are similar to those of the resident mothers though fathers are slightly older (36 vs. 32 years old, on average) and more likely to have been married at some point. As expected, caseworkers appear to know less about nonresident fathers. The percent of "don't know" responses is much higher for nonresident fathers than for similar questions about resident mothers.