Daniel Herring: Directed Reading Research Informs Job

I am in my second part-time year as a graduate student in the social work program. I recently had the pleasure of being able to complete a directed reading course and was able to expand my knowledge on a topic I was passionate and interested in. I chose ‘Fathers’ Initiatives in Child Welfare Services.’ Historically, child welfare services have focused on interventions with mothers and did not involve or provide reasonable efforts to identify fathers. In conclusion, the research indicates that social workers’ engagement with fathers is worthwhile for children as it decreases the length of time in foster care and increases the likelihood of reunification with one or both parents. Engaging with both parents, even if they reside in separate households, increases the chances of the child’s exiting foster care to reunification. Father involvement also improves well-being of the child by assisting in financial support of the child such as ensuring the child’s immediate needs are met. The literature also indicates father involvement decreased the risk of maltreatment in care as the father and paternal relatives can enhance the child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being needs.

As a social worker with more than 11 years of experience in child welfare services, I intend on sharing this research with my colleagues in order to determine how we can enhance current practice to improve outcomes for families involved in child welfare. My current leadership role at work provides a platform to create opportunities to develop and implement practice strategies within the southeastern Oklahoma counties, to improve father engagement. We are already implementing other strategies to improve family engagement as a whole, which consists of increased face-to-face contact between the social worker and parent while the case plan goal remains reunification. Our theory is that increased face time to offer support to the parent to correct the conditions which lead to the child's removal will result in earlier permanency rates for children. Also, the hope is to utilize the research to better understand the experience of fathers in the child welfare system.

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