Child welfare decision-making: Factors influencing service selection
Israel, Marion Kerr
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Treatment of emotionally disturbed children in the least restrictive environment, usually interpreted as the child's home, is consistent with current federal and state child welfare policy and professional social work practice because treating children outside the home is very costly and may have a long-standing negative impact on the parent-child relationship. In New Jersey, all residential placements by the public child welfare agency require the approval of county-based, interagency Case Assessment Resource Teams (CARTs).;This study describes and explains the relationship between non-client factors and the rate of approval of out-of-home placement for emotionally disturbed children in New Jersey. Data were gathered through a self-report instrument, composed of questions constructed by the investigator and the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire, which was distributed to members of the CARTs in all 21 counties in New Jersey. Only those counties with a 50 percent member response rate were included in the study so that the responses were representative of the majority of CART members. Data are described through the use of descriptive statistics, such as frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations. Chi-square and t-tests are used to test the significance of differences among counties and among demographic categories on the independent variables explored. Correlation coefficients were used to determine the relationship between each independent variable and the dependent variable and a multiple regression model was developed to explain the combined effect of the independent or predictor variables on the dependent variable.;The data indicated that the following independent variables are significant predictors of higher rates of placement approval: the proportion of child welfare/Court employees, the percentage of minority children, the variety of services available, and the percentage of members with master's degrees. The following independent variables are significant predictors of lower rates of placement approval: a high percentage of original members and a high percentage of placement providers serving on CARTs. Implications of these findings for social work research, policy, education, and practice are discussed in detail.