Essays in Child Protections and Family Involvement
Soria, Nigel Devin
Sickles, Robin C
Doctor of Philosophy
The essays in this dissertation address the central question of whether involving family members in the child welfare decision-making process leads to higher family member engagement—in promoting safety, permanency, and well-being—and better outcomes for children and families. Specifically, these essays look at family group decision making, a child welfare practice in which family and other group members actively participate in developing the case plan that typically follows a report of maltreatment, and its impact on child and family outcomes. In the first essay, I study the impact of family group decision making on the recurrence of child maltreatment using a latent-variable framework. I assume the unobservables in the outcome and selection equations observe a normal factor structure, and I calculate various mean treatment parameters from a common set of structural parameters. In general, I find the effect is positive for both families that select into family group decision making and the entire population, where population is defined as the group of families involved in the child protection process. Also, the results indicate families most likely to participate in family group decision making benefit the most from the program. In the second essay, I study the level of family participation in addressing the outcomes, goals, and tasks listed in the child protection case plan. To address this topic, I exploit a unique family-level data set consisting of over 5,500 families in the United States. For each family member in each of these families, I observe a discrete measure of whether they completed their assigned tasks. Using systems of simultaneous discrete choice models, I estimate each family member's choice of involvement as a static discrete game under complete and incomplete information assumptions. I find that completing one's tasks is the preferred strategy for families in which the mother or father participated in the case planning process. Completing one's tasks also appears to be the preferred strategy for families with very young children, children who were six to 10 years old at the time of the report, and families in which the mother was not the alleged abuser.