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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Notes on soon to be published research

The journal Children and Youth Services Review has several articles forthcoming that are of clinical importance in child protection.

Daniel has an article, "Fostering cultural development: Foster parents’ perspectives" which is a qualitative review done with a small group of foster parents in two Canadian provinces. It looks at trans racial foster care. This is quite important as there is a shortage of non-caucasian foster homes while there is a far greater representation of non-caucasian children, particularly Aboriginal children, in foster care. She concludes, "The core theme that emerged, based on my interpretation of 9 participants responses, was that foster parents were ‘fostering cultural development’ in their homes as well as their respective communities." While the study is small, it is a look at an under studies issue in Canada.

In another study forthcoming in this journal, Grant and her colleagues will publish "Maternal substance abuse and disrupted parenting: Distinguishing mothers who keep their children from those who do not". This is such an important topic as substance abuse issues are so prevalent in child protection populations. They note, "Mothers who have substance abuse disorders typically have psychosocial characteristics that put them at risk for poor or disrupted parenting, including experiences of early childhood neglect and abuse." Reunification efforts with this population can be challenging. "A significant body of research has examined the role of service delivery in family reunification among mothers who have substance abuse problems, and confirms the benefits of comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and accessible services being available and tailored to the mothers’ needs." Multi agency cooperation is key to successful intervention.

Too often I have seen efforts made with one parent the focus (typically the mother) with little attention paid to a partner, particularly if that partner is a part time member of the family unit or not the biological father. This research notes, "...for mothers who completed inpatient treatment the odds of reunification were increased if they also had a partner who was supportive of them staying clean and sober." This research also notes the complex nature of substance base issues and the need to match services with those needs which include such things as mental health services, housing and health needs.

In another Canadian study, Guibord and colleagues from the University of Ottawa wrote, "Risk and protective factors for depression and substance use in an adolescent child welfare sample". The abstract of the article nicely outlines their conclusions and really emphasizes how important caregiver relationships are. "Results from logistic regressions indicated that adolescent females were at higher risk of experiencing depression than males, and increasing age was associated with increased risk for substance use. Turning to protective factors, results indicated that the greater the perceived quality of the youth–caregiver relationship, the lower the risk for mental health difficulties (i.e., depression, substance use). Moreover, participation in extracurricular activities appeared to protect youth against depression or substance use. Results imply that the youth–caregiver relationship and involvement in extracurricular activities are important areas to consider to promote the well-being of maltreated youth in out-of-home care." In essence, creating something stable and approximating a typical developmental trajectory matters. The converse implication is that multiple unstable placements are likely to be high risk for youth.

I was also fascinated with another study given work that I do with adolescents with substance dependency problems and their families. Hornberger and Smith have an article upcoming, "Family involvement in adolescent substance abuse treatment and recovery: What do we know? What lies ahead?" They conclude "amily involvement should be an essential part of intake, treatment, and recovery planning, as well as the foundation for effective parent–professional partnerships." I would go further based on my own research that is about to be published in Procedia in which I note that families also need treatment to help with the impact of substance abuse problems on family functioning. I particularly like Hornbereger and Smith's conclusion "The goal of family involvement is not only to involve families in the treatment process, but also to develop collaborative partnerships that bring the expertise, resources, and experiences of families and professionals together. Such collaborative partnerships are necessary to help adolescents and their families not only understand the disease of addiction but engage in treatment, sustain recovery, and heal from the impact of substance abuse. In treatment, when families and professionals work together in the best interests of the adolescent and impacted family members, positive outcomes occur. When there is increased family involvement, family members have greater owner- ship of the treatment plan, which in turn increases their motivation and participation, and thereby improves outcomes."

In yet another important piece of research to be published, Jones looks at foster care youth in the 3 years after moving to adulthood. She notes " Factors which facilitated successful adaptations were: a period of transitional residence after foster care, good support systems including family and former social workers, and a commitment to further education." This emphasizes other research that transitional supports are so needed. Given that children growing up in biological homes require support to adulthood why would we think it would be any different for foster children who typically face greater odds.

Good research helps us to have better clinical interventions. These articles add to our knowledge.

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