Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Deirdre Lanesskog


Child welfare agencies are responsible for the overall care and custody of children removed from their caregivers due to substantiated child abuse allegations. After the children are removed it is standard department procedure to offer court mandated reunification services. The only exception of this is when parent’s rights are terminated. Both the parents and children are ordered services based on the needs of the family. These services include but are not limited to parenting classes, drug treatment, and therapeutic services.

The purpose of this study is to examine whether families in different geographic areas, who are referred to different therapeutic providers, experience different reunification rates. The agency that provided the data for this study presumed that families in more affluent zip codes are more likely to be served by licensed therapists, while families in less affluent zip codes are more likely to be served by interns or unlicensed professionals, and that this difference in providers would lead to greater reunification rates in the more affluent zip code.

The study used data collected from client case files at a local child welfare agency. This data included clients from two distinct zip codes - one more affluent and one less affluent - as well as basic demographic and outcome information on the client’s case. After data was gathered a chi square test was utilized to compare the outcomes for clients in the two zip codes. It was initially presumed that families in lower socioeconomic areas were referred to non-licensed therapeutic providers such as interns and this may have impacted their reunification. However, the analysis revealed that families in the less affluent area were more likely to reunify than families in the more affluent area. These results were statistically significant and support the first part of the agency’s hypothesis, that families in different zip codes experience different reunification rates. However, these findings do not support the agency’s hypothesis that families in more affluent zip codes have higher reunification rates. Rather this study found the opposite: that families in the less affluent zip code had higher reunification rates. Implications for social work practice and research are discussed.

Included in

Social Work Commons