Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fatherhood Engagement and the Importance of Including the Father in the Process

Today, 1 out of every 3 children in America is living in a home without his or her natural father. 

When we think about a family unit, we often think about the mother, father, and the children. Now, days the family is no longer the nuclear family with the father, mother, and 2.5 kids. Families are a lot less traditional. A family can be defined in many ways depending on who you are talking to. As a social worker, we look at our own personal experience and think about the role of our mother, and father. We think about the impact each parent has made on our lives, and how an absent parent can make a traumatic difference. I want to look at the role of the father and how their involvement impacts child welfare. If social workers engage with fathers and include them in the process does that mean the child has a better chance of staying with the family?

Let's look at the research, over the course of time, we have learned more about the essential roles of both the fathers and mothers in the healthy development of their offspring. Children with involved, loving fathers are much more likely to do well in school, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as truancy, drug use, and delinquent activity, than children who have fathers who are not involved. Boys and young men growing up without a father face enormous risks compared with males who are raised with heir fathers. 

 Child-serving systems tend to discount the important of fathers' involvement. Typically, they only look at child support as the only critical responsibility. Financial support is key, but it takes more than finances to raise a child.  When looking at this phenomenon from a behavioral health perspective, the assumption is the father is not involved if he does not attend the appointments. As a group, fathers are less likely to attend meetings than mothers. In most cases, fathers are not absent fathers. Historical and systemic factors help us to understand why fathers may sometimes be or appear to be less involved in the lives of their children than mothers are. 

Statistics about single parent homes and fathers. 

In the United States, 20 million children live in single parent homes. 18 percent of the single parents who currently live with their children are men, while 82 percent are women.
The number of single father has increased from 400,000 to 2.5 million since 1970. 
24 million  children (34 percent) do not live with their biological fathers.
40 percent of children in father-absent homes have not seen their fathers once during the past year.
Approximately 50 percent of children not living with heir fathers have never set foot in their father's homes. 
Fathers are an integral part of their families as well as their communities. Fathers bring a rich perspective to systems that have historically focused primarily on mothers or female caregivers.  When father are involved in their children's live the children they care enter formal systems less frequently, less deeply, and for a shorter period of times. The majority of enrolled children in the systems of care are male, inclusion of male caregivers in systems of care is especially critical. 

As social workers on the micro level, we should ensure that fathers have access, voice, and choice in the development, implementation, and revision of service plans. Social workers should make efforts to make contact with the fathers. Asking caregivers if Dad will be a part of the meeting. Being able to be flexible with father's work schedule and try to schedule meetings at times that are convenient for fathers. Engaging Dad in the meeting and asking for his input. When fathers are unable to attend meetings, social workers should ask for their input in advance to have his opinion included in decision making. 

It is very important to follow up with fathers when they must be absent from meetings to ensure they understand what is going on in the process. Most importantly, making sure the service plans are culturally and linguistically competent and they should meet the diverse needs of fathers by ensuring that cultural preferences, practices, and mores are learned, understood, and honored. 

The next blog we can look at what we can do on the mezzo, and macro level to help further engage fathers to help bring families back together. Please comment about this issue below. Thank you reading!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Disproportionality Overview and Foster Care Statistics

Disproportionality: An  Overview and Foster Care Statistics 

The term disproportionality can be a foreign word to someone who is not in the human service field. Disproportionality is the over-representation of a particular group of people, who does not make up a large group in the total population. For example,  if African Americans make up 13 percent of America's population, and they represent 75 percent of the foster care system then that is a disproportionate rate.

So what does this mean for practitioners? Are the systems put in place not culturally competence? Does this mean that minority parents are unable to take care of their offspring? What is really going on, and what can we do to solve this social problem? As a social worker, we have to utilize our skills to assess what we can do to bring about social change. We have to use the data to inform our practice. We can do the research, but we also need to figure out what the next step is.  How can we make changes in efforts to provide culturally competence services for the clients we serve?

A lot of time we are passionate about certain issues affecting certain populations, and we come up with great solutions. The hardest part is being about to implement those changes to translate into effective practice. This is not about macro social worker vs clinical or direct service. The purpose of looking at the research is to look at the data , and work together to create solutions in order to implement change.  Let's first look at the statistics.

In 2008, U.S. Census Bureau conducted an American Community Survey. This data shows that African Americans are over-represented in the foster care system.

During 2013, CWLA (Child Welfare League of America) looked at a snapshot of America's children. The number of children in America under 18 is 73, 586, 612. Of that makeup 52.2% were white children (not Hispanic) , and 47.8% non-white children. 32.8% were under 6, and 33.6 were between 6-11. Youth ages 12-17 represented 33.8%.

402,378 children were living in an out of home placement, 101,840 were waiting to be adopted, 677,997 cases were considered substantiated/indicated as abused or neglect.

When looking at all of this data, you have to also look at the overlaps of poverty and abuse/neglect. 16,086,960 children were living in poverty, and 30,674,476  hildren were living in low-income families.

In 2013, approximately 3.5 million allegations of child abuse and neglect, representing 6.4 million children made to CPS (Child Protective Services).

Now let's look at the racial background on a national level. Data was collected by AFCARS (Adoption & Foster Care Analysis & Reporting System) did a point in time study. On September 30, 2013 there were 402,378 children in foster. 42 percent were White, 24 were African-American, 22 were Hispanic, 9 percent were multiracial or other. According to their website other races or multiracial includes, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and two or more race. 3 percent were unknown or unable to be determined.

In Virginia in 2013, there were 4,389 children in foster care.  The statistics below were collected on the last day of the year in 2013.

Five Highest Cases of Foster Care in Virginia in 2013.

Norfolk - 250
Fairfax County- 249
Richmond- 225
Virginia Beach- 193
Roanoke City- 186

Please feel free to leave comments, and start discussions. I love hearing feedback.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Introduction to Blog: Give Our Children A Chance

Welcome to the Give Our Children A Chance Blog!

Here at this blog we will be discussing the social issue of "Disproportionality in Child Welfare" specifically children of color.

I am currently a MSW student doing my concentration placement at a local social services. Here at the agency that has been a trend of more African American children coming into foster care. As social work practitioners we know that kinship care is a safer and more effective options for our children, but the State of Virginia does not recognize kinship care. I have a few goals for this blog:
  • To make awareness of this social issue
  • To educate the community on issues that affect our children in child welfare
  • Create solutions that will help reduce the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system in this city
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Advocate and be a voice for the children in this community   
I know I have a lot to accomplish, but I have big ideas. As an inspiring macro practitioner, I am interested in making changes on the larger level as well as the community level. This will help facilitate change on the micro level, where our children are being affected.

Previously, I became interested in foster care issues at a placement during my BSW program. My focus was not in the foster care area, but I became intrigued by the independent living program. At the time I also became a CASA worker. Very interesting experience, so now I am looking at the research to see what can be done.

Please comment below if you have comments or suggestions.

Thank you for reading!