The Brookings Institute conducted a six year study and published its findings in 2007 in a report titled, “Child Protection and Parent Training Programs.” They wanted to:
- Describe the nation’s child protection system—to understand what was really going on in America, and
- Know more about child outcomes.
- Model programs are generally not in use.
- The amount of parental training is frequently lower than model programs would suggest, and
- Child welfare agencies demonstrate little exercise over content of parental training (and that could be because they are not paying for it. If they’re not paying for something, it is really hard to tell others what to do with it.)
What they found was that about 800,000 families receive parental training each year, but most children involved with child welfare don’t go into foster care. They remain at home. What is mindboggling is how the government and the court systems deal (or don’t deal) with this problem.
When the courts mandate parental training, most of the information coming back to the courts is not about how effective the training was, but rather whether or not the training was completed or how many sessions were completed.
Only 1% of the child welfare agencies require that a specific program be used. Mostly they leave it up to the provider to decide what should be done. So, the child welfare agencies aren’t really managing this very well. Most of the sessions involve less than 15 occasions. Only 10% receive 30 or more hours of parental training (that’s about 3 ½ days). Do you believe this would effectively correct poor on non-existent parenting skills? And, most training programs are one size fits all instead of asking parents what they need.
What was learned from this study?
Legislatively, there are no incentives for improving parental training. There are no research dollars allocated to the Safe and Stable Families Act that is explicitly dedicated to improve parental training.
Washington could help by changing the way financing is done for child welfare agencies to incentivize prevention and keep kids in their homes. Give money for services and not for all the bureaucratic administrative things that costs counties and states a fortune. There’s not a dime that comes out to any counties or states to do any evaluation on anything. Everyone wants evidence-based practices, but no funding is provided. You still can’t even get the mental health and child welfare systems to talk to one another after all these years.
Effective parenting is the best protective factor that we could have for children. And it should start in high school or even younger. This is about educating parents and future parents. But until Congress gets serious about protecting children instead of just throwing more money at band aides like they have always done, nothing will change.