Empowering Families through Effective Child Welfare Services

Researchers partner to explore family service needs through latent class analysis

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Providing effective services for families, especially those with children who have previously been in foster care situations, can be a major challenge for social work organizations seeking to promote better outcomes for children and their parents. A team of researchers, including DU's Jennifer Bellamy and scholars from the University of Illinois at Chicago, used child welfare assessments to sort families into latent classes that describe their particular service needs, aiming to produce more effective guidelines around these services so that families can get the assistance they need.

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About the Project

The study, published in Children and Youth Services Review, used data from the Illinois Integrated Assessment program, which integrates clinical assessments of both parents following a child's placement in foster care to determine a family's service needs. Establishing four latent class models for both mothers and fathers, the researchers used survey results from the IIA to sort families into these four classes.

The classes established for each parent included low need, substance abuse, mental health, and complex need categories. By analyzing the factors that affected each parent's ability to care for a child previously in foster care, the scholars were able to explore how various factors influence a family's need of externally provided resources and services.

The study found that further study is needed to improve the means by which assessors review individual family and child welfare cases, also indicating the need to improve engagement with fathers toward better outcomes for children.

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Jennifer Bellamy

As a professor at the DU Graduate School of Social Work, Jennifer Bellamy specializes in child welfare, family systems, and social justice. Her work centers around the impact of fathers on family function and developing better ways to engage with men through social and family services.