Each year, child welfare agencies receive over three million referrals on children alleged to be victims of child abuse or neglect. When the state exercises its societal right to remove a child from his or her family, the primary goal is to reunify that child as soon as the involved institutions reach agreement on the child's safety. In such cases, a child's parent must demonstrate that he or she can provide for the child in a safe environment (Malm, Bess, Leos-Urbel, Geen & Markowitz, 2001). Parents many times fail to understand the importance of the federally mandated timelines within which they must complete a plan for the child (ASFA, 2002). The process of engaging these parents is therefore of utmost import. Studies concentrated in the fields of mental health, health and education have shown the importance of engaging clients. Very few studies have examined the impact of client engagement in the child welfare arena. The vast majority of the parents involved with the child welfare system are involuntary clients and engaging them in the court ordered process can be problematic. This study examined the impact of early engagement of parents involved in the child welfare system on the likelihood of reunification with their child. Engagement was viewed as a multidimensional construct comprised of the initial level of parental engagement and the number of child welfare contacts. It used a cross sectional design with short term follow-up to collect data from 150 parents who had a child removed. The survey data were matched to an administrative data extract which contained salient child and parent factors that have been found to be related to reunification. Data were analyzed using logistic regression to determine if the parent's engagement increased the odds of reunification after controlling for the child and parent characteristics. The results from this study found that while the parent's initial level of engagement was a marginally significant predictor of the likelihood for reunification, the number of child welfare contacts were not. Assessing the initial level of parent engagement and then providing supportive services to strengthen that engagement will assist the families in reunification.

LLU Discipline

Social Policy and Social Research


Social Work and Social Ecology


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

James, Sigrid

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Child Welfare -- Research; Child Welfare

Subject - Local

Parental Engagement



Page Count

124 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

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Social Policy Commons