Federation Research Bulletin: October 2019

This month’s research bulletin includes new articles and reports about preventing child neglect and maltreatment, family preservation, foster parent training and supports, care proceedings, recurring interactions with the family justice system, parenting programs, and service delivery team leadership.

  1. Heed Neglect, Disrupt Child Maltreatment: a Call to Action for Researchers
  2. Foster parents’ needs, perceptions and satisfaction with foster parent training
  3. A National Paper on Youth Suicide
  4. Gender, family relations and recurrent care proceedings in England
  5. Service providers’ initial stance toward the adoption of an evidence-based parenting program

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1. Heed Neglect, Disrupt Child Maltreatment: A Call to Action for Researchers (2019)

In their work on child neglect, the researchers of this paper argue that many research and intervention efforts around child neglect have fallen victim to the “streetlight effect”—looking for answers to a complex problem where it seems easiest to find “answers” rather than where the answers may actually exist.

They argue that, in the case of neglect, the streetlight represents micro-level factors such as family dynamic/behaviour and individual pathology. These, they argue, are the areas where research has been concentrated, despite theories that suggest key factors may exist further from the family unit.

This paper proposes and argues for shifting the focus of research on neglect away from individual and family-level factors of indicated populations in order to inform new directions for child protection work. They argue that macro-level factors (economics, labour markets, and governmental affairs), while receiving far less attention from researchers, show much promise for both understanding the causal pathways of neglect and identifying policies for more broad, universal prevention.

While continuing to strengthen families and communities in order to prevent child neglect, these researchers propose that the causes of child neglect may not be best addressed through child protective services and suggest that child maltreatment prevention should explore approaches and policies that are not necessarily child welfare–specific.

2. Foster parents’ needs, perceptions and satisfaction with foster parent training (2019)

Across the board (and across borders) the highest incidence of foster placement breakdowns result from foster parents withdrawing due to insufficient or lack of training and support. At the same time, research shows that training is a key reason for foster parent placement success. This literature review attempts to address that obvious gap by examining both the needs of foster parents and their satisfaction and perceptions of foster parent training.

The review found a significant need for more training on specific topics such as mental health, developmental patterns, the impact of trauma, specific forms of abuse; and cultural diversity. Foster parents also needed more practical, usable (i.e., with real-life application), and flexible modules of training as well as ongoing training and support after they become active foster parents.

The responses of foster parents—their experiences and needs—will be particularly informative for both social service organizations and policy-makers in addition to those working with foster parent training programs specifically.

3. A National Paper on Youth Suicide (2019)

As part of its work, the Canadian Council of Child & Youth Advocates has been actively monitoring what the provincial, territorial and federal governments are doing to address the issue of child and youth suicide in Canada. This report focused on integrating the diverse work on youth suicide and mental health that has been completed by members of the Council in their provincial or territorial jurisdictions.

The review of this diverse collection of work by the Council led to the identification of three broad themes that underscore the complex nature of youth suicide: Traumatic Childhood Experiences, Integration of Service, and the Right to be Heard. (The findings of this paper were also tested with various youth advisory groups to ensure the work aligned with the experiences of young people.)

It concludes with three recommendations that serve as broad calls to action (aimed at the federal government) that will begin to address the key findings of this report: (1) a fully resourced National Suicide Strategy; (2) a cross-jurisdictional, standardized, data system compiling mandatory reports of attempted and completed youth suicides; (3) meaningful and collaborative interventions in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities experiencing high rates of suicidal behaviour of young people.

4. Linked lives: Gender, family relations and recurrent care proceedings in England (2019)

This paper analyzes population-level administrative data from the family courts in England between 2007 and 2017 to explore the family relations between mothers, fathers, and children as they navigated repeated sets of care proceedings. Based on the analysis of population-level administrative data, the findings provide a representative typology of changes and continuity in family relations as parents appeared and reappeared before the court.

This research provides new evidence to inform the development of holistic, gender-sensitive, and father-inclusive services for those involved in the family justice system. It also reinforces the value of whole-family approaches to addressing the human and financial costs of recurrent encounters with the family justice system.

The authors suggest that the vicious cycle of recurrence cannot be addressed by targeting individual parents alone. Rather, it is essential to adopt a whole-family approach and acknowledge the enduring nature or re-establishment of partnership and intergenerational relations as families navigate their shared experiences in the family justice system.

5. Service providers’ initial stance toward the adoption of an evidence-based parenting program (2019)

Evidence-based health and social programs that have demonstrated significant effects in controlled environments often fail to yield expected benefits when implemented in the field. Only a few studies have assessed the factors associated with the successful transfer of skills from a training environment to clinical practice.

This paper is part of a two-year demonstration project to implement an evidence-based parenting program called Triple P. It examines service providers’ initial stance toward the adoption of Triple P and subsequent program use in the field.

From the service providers’ perspective, a team leader’s motivation, skill, knowledge, support of the program, and time to devote to the project were the most essential assets when implementing a new program.

While previous studies have focused on the role played by organizational structure and functioning in the adoption and implementation process, this study suggests that what matters most is team-level leadership that can provide them with adequate support in order to eliminate organizational barriers to implementation (e.g., poor access to supervision or peer support, and difficulties incorporating the program into existing caseloads).