Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Gretchen Heidemann


This research project is an examination of the challenges of service delivery to clients in the child welfare system in a rural eastern California county. Coordinating and delivering services is an ongoing difficulty for all rural service providers working with child welfare throughout the country as many clients are isolated, the resources are scarce, programs may be lacking adequate structure or funding, long-distance travel is challenging, and specialized staffing is limited. This particular county is spread over 3,000 square miles of mountainous terrain, is neighbored by other rural counties, and the closest California metropolitan city is about 300 miles away. This study followed a constructivist paradigm because of the amount of different service providers from various fields, and the subjective nature of the problem being presented. Seven agency administrators and direct service providers who interact with clients participated in face-to-face interviews in order to develop a joint construction of the challenges and strengths when it comes to delivering services to child welfare clients in this community. The researcher analyzed the constructs of each participant through open coding and brought these constructs to a member check meeting.

The findings of this research show that challenges for this rural community include outreach and prevention, recruitment and retention, providers having to perform multiple roles, utilizing grants and funding streams more advantageous to urban service providers, and travel difficulties with the vast geography and inclement weather conditions. Strengths of providing rural services were also identified which include having lower caseloads, being able to provide more individualized services, and an increased collaboration between service providers.

The implications of this research for micro social work practice allow for further adaptations of micro practice interventions and strategies in rural communities in order to best serve clients and efficiently utilize resources. This research allows for the development of macro social work considerations such as more specific policies around grant terms for rural provider, department hiring strategies, and policy improvements.

Included in

Social Work Commons