Quotes from: Study
Caseworkers’ Attitudes Regarding Service Needs and Client Success:
Reunifying Parents with a Drug Addiction and Their Children
http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cg ... 1110986873
Short Timelines for Drug-abusing Parents
There are many added obstacles in treatment that caseworkers face when working
with parents with a drug addition that they do not face with other parents. Central to this
challenge is that “addiction to drugs can be a chronic, relapsing disorder and recovery can
be a long-term process” (Department of Health and Human Services: Blending
Perspectives, Introduction, para. 2).
Studies also have been conducted on the needs of drug–abusing mothers.
identified for causing or exacerbating the mother’s use was environmental stress
(domestic abuse, inadequate housing, and financial instability) and past use. The study
called for service providers to offer more customized services to address these needs.
when “parents are known to have recent, active,
drug-taking histories, some mechanism for mandating relative sobriety and monitoring
compliance must be established” before the child visits the parent or vice versa.
minority of social workers seem to hold attitudes that appear to be inconsistent with
family support for drug-abusing parents, and are likely to discriminate against them.
Summary and Implications
The literature reviewed addressed..
the literature has identified many of the limitations of the
system. All of these problems, even those cited almost 20 years ago, still exist in today’s
child welfare system.
The study also
aims to educate politicians and professionals in the substance abuse and child welfare
fields about the crisis and limitations that exist in the child welfare agencies of this
country, and also to encourage professionals to develop more effective and realistic
proposals to the problems. Children have a desperate desire to be reunited with their
parents and child protection agencies simply cannot provide a replacement for a child’s
natural parent. Thus, CPAs must make a greater effort to keep these addicted families
together (Levy & Rutter, 1992). The changes that need to occur in order to make this
possible must de discovered.
The purpose of the study was to gain insight and knowledge about what
caseworkers in this system feel works and what does not work to best serve the children
and their families.
Through the interviews conducted with the caseworkers there were several areas
of service within the system that they felt did not best support their work or the situations
of their clients. These areas were: treatment plans, county and court regulations, a
limited budget, the administration of their agency, drug treatment that is or is not
available for parents with an addiction, and lack of housing for parents with a drug
A problem expressed by workers in both units was the domino effect that
occurs for parents when trying to complete sections of their treatment plans. The
repercussions of one failure or charge then bring about barriers to accomplishing other
sections of their treatment plan. As one caseworker stated:
“If they can’t get clean and sober they’re probably not going to be able to get a
job and keep it; they’re probably not going to therefore be able to get housing;
and won’t have transportation to parenting. So you know everything kind of
crumbles if they can’t do one”
The more the caseworkers of both units discussed the multiple roadblocks that clients
face, the more they stated their realization that the system can be a trap for many. “We
set this system up so that it’s like this big revolving circle and I don’t know that we really
made it possible for anybody to really get out”
County and court regulations and pressures.
The workers noted mandates such as that the rooms have to be 12 feet by 12
feet square and children are not allowed to sleep on the floor or the couch, even when the
children say themselves that they would be perfectly happy doing so.
One adolescent services
caseworker stated that the system does not recognize that “you’d be better being with a
family member that maybe doesn’t have the ideal living situation but at least they know
you and they love you and they’re not going to give up on you”
Drug treatment for parents.
Several of them noted in the interviews that they
have had parents who tell them that treatment is a joke
drug treatment is not individualized enough.
The participants noted that many of their clients are not simply facing a
drug addiction, but that it is often linked to a mental illness or mood disorder for which
they are self-medicating. The parents are in need of a center to treat both health
problems in order for them to move forward. Another caseworker stated that it also turns
into a cycle because they are self-medicating because of their depression/illness but they
also are “depressed because they can’t get clean”
Lack of housing for clients. The final major service need identified by the
caseworkers was the lack of affordable and attainable, housing for their clients.
Another issue facing recovering parents is that the housing that they can afford
places them back into a neighborhood of drug abuse and sales. Some caseworkers shared
stories of clients that they have in section 8 housing that report a significant drug culture
is surrounding them and it is a day-to-day struggle to remain clean. And, even if a client
can afford independent housing the same issues face them
Caseworkers’ Challenges and Attitudes
The caseworkers interviewed also identified some issues that they struggle with
personally when working with parents with a drug addiction and their children.
Children who do not see a drug problem. One problem that caseworkers raised as
being a struggle for them is that often the children do not see their parent’s drug abuse as
a substantial problem and the caseworkers have to explain why they are taking these
actions. One ongoing children’s services worker stated that, “Most of the time [the
children] don’t even see it as necessarily a big problem. This is just the way they’ve
always grown up, and the way it’s always been, and they just want their mommy and
Caseworkers’ biased views of what is ‘best’. One caseworker brought up the
question of whether or not their view of what is best really is what is best for these
children. Many agreed with the following statement:
“Well I suppose you always have to wonder if our intervention is always the best.
We have this nice idea of how it all should be and maybe it’s not going to kill [the
adolescent children of parents with a drug addiction] to [continue to] raise their
siblings. You know maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’d be better for the siblings and
them. And we have to be sure that our little nice middle-class way of looking at
things always is the best”
Parents who do not see a drug problem. The caseworkers also noted that a major
issue they face on a regular basis is parents who do not believe that they have a problem.
Caseworkers’ perceptions of parent motivations.
“I think we put a lot of good things in place, but it really is up to the parent
whether or not they are going to follow through with a little bit, any of it, some of
it, and be successful or not successful. There’s so many different options in there
and some of our treatment plans are a little cookie cutter but it’s all for good
reason. If they wanted to get something out of the parenting classes, or drug
treatment, or family therapy, or a psych[ological] eval[uation] or whatever we put
on there [they would]. You just never know what parts they’re going to choose to
utilize and get something out of”
As one can see from this comment, there was discussion among the workers that implied
that they felt it was the parent’s choice whether or not they used the system to their
advantage despite the issues we have discussed. However, others disagreed and stated
that the lack of services and/or the addiction itself were to blame. There was much
debate as to whether the parents chose not to complete portions of their treatment plans
simply because they preferred to keep using over getting their children back or whether
they just continued to keep using because the addiction had such a strong power over
them. Yet other caseworkers said that they have had clients that simply do not love their
kids, in their opinion. These are all attitudes and assumptions that these caseworkers are
taking into new cases.
Expectations for success. Throughout the interviews, the caseworkers indicated a
very low expectation for success. When asked how often they have successes, these are
again disagreement as to whether or not this was a choice not to get help or if it was the
result of the addiction and a possible mental illness themselves. As one can see, another
issue facing caseworkers is the low success rate and how this can affect their attitudes
toward their clients’ attempts and small successes, through no fault of their own.
Summary of Research Findings
This research provided an
understanding of what needs to be changed by those most closely involved with the
process. Identified obstacles included unrealistic treatment plans, county and court
regulations and pressures, a limited budget, a misunderstanding administration, lack of
adequate drug treatment for parents, and lack of appropriate housing for clients with a
current or past drug addiction.
are few avenues for families with low incomes to take and many obstacles on the road to
recovery. All of the interviewed caseworkers indicated that all of these issues need to be
dealt with in order for the child welfare system to deal effectively with families with a
drug addiction in the coming years.
Caseworkers also identified many issues that they see as daily challenges in their
work relationships with their clients. These include: children who do not understand the
problem their parent has, caseworkers’ views of what is best for clients and how
generalizable that view can be, parents who do not see that they have a substance abuse
problem, caseworkers’ perceptions of parent motivations, and caseworkers’ low
expectations for client success.
The obstacles identified in this study speak to the deficiencies and limitations
within the current system and present implications for policy, practice, and further
research. The findings of this research study were generally in line with what previous
County and Court Regulations and Pressures
In general, there needs to be more communication between the state and county
governments, the court system, and caseworkers. Instead of the courts and government
looking at the cases as a number and a set of standards that need to be met, there could be
more subjective standards, primarily through looking at the primary individual challenges
and needs of clients and their families. It seems that caseworkers are hoping to be asked
more often what the story is behind a certain case. While this need obviously cannot be
fully met due to the high number of cases in the system, some effort should be made for
these three entities to meet and discuss ways to improve the respect for, and
understanding of, the needs of each and discuss what accommodations can be made.
Additionally, research should be gathered by policymakers with respect to what an
appropriate time frame is for this special population of parents and how this can best be
met with respect to each child’s developmental timeline and needs.
The Relationship of the Budget, Available Treatment and Short Timelines
The budget crisis has been made known to policymakers, politicians and agencies
by many more sources than this research project. This problem is creating severe effects
for this disadvantaged population. Based on the findings of this study, those involved in
the system may be able to focus on how the budget is related to the lack of available
treatment and the short, strict timelines that are being placed upon families within the
system. These are the two largest roadblocks to timely reunification of families and they
need to be addressed immediately.