The caseworkers/social workers definition of family and its relationship to their decisions to place children into foster care

Marcia Morrison, Fordham University


The purpose of this research therefore, was to answer the question, "What is the social worker's definition of family?" and "what is the relationship between the social worker's definition of family and the decision to recommend the placement of children into foster care?" In an attempt to explore the foster care system's method of placement, this research examined factors that affect social workers biases as it relates to defining family systems. It looked at conceptual definitions of the term family from societal/sociological perspectives. It then went on to explore social work theories applicable to families. An examination was also be made of related research conducted on the social worker's definition of family and its impact on placement of children in foster care. The research question, hypothesis and variables was be examined. Demographic information obtained from the respondents as well as the findings of this research was also presented. The conclusion consisted of a summary of the findings and how they related to social workers perception of family. An outline was also presented of how perception of family influence placement decisions. Recommendations for the field of social work and social work education concluded this study. This research supported the hypothesis that definition of family influences placement preference in that participants with a conservative definition of family reflected a higher placement preference. Regression analysis confirmed that not only was there a relationship between these two variables, but that of all the variables presented in this research, definition of family was the most powerful when compared to the others in predicting placement preference. In summary, this study showed that child welfare workers have different perceptions of family. It found that such perception is colored by factors including parents education, household composition--currently and during childhood, the respondent's number of children and the head of household during childhood. Bearing in mind that these are factors over which an individual has little control, nonetheless, these findings carry with them implications for schools of social work. Currently, social work curriculum introduces the student to differing family systems (Hartman, 1985). Based on this study schools of social work need to go beyond merely introducing students to different family systems and teach them the values/assets/strengths of each system. In doing so, students will come away from the course(s) not with value-biases against some family systems, but rather, having developed tolerance for all existing and emerging family systems. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Social work|Welfare|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Morrison, Marcia, "The caseworkers/social workers definition of family and its relationship to their decisions to place children into foster care" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9529892.