A wealth of past research has documented the experiences and outcomes following social service and dependency case involvement in maltreated children. However, the experiences of parents and caregivers, two key contributors to dependency cases, are equally important. The current study systematically examines how parent and caregiver factors predict the placement outcomes (family reunification, termination of parents’ legal rights to their children, “pending/ongoing” cases), and duration of dependency cases for children removed from their parents’ custody due to substantiated abuse or neglect. Potential predictors were identified according to theory, multidisciplinary work, and legal guidelines concerning social service interventions for maltreated children. Secondary data analyses were conducted on a sample from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II (NSCAW II), which evaluated the functioning, characteristics, outcomes, services, and case details of families involved in dependency cases. One thousand six hundred eighty-four maltreated children removed from their parents’ custody comprised the final sample. The children’s cases were coded for parent predictors (type of substantiated abuse involved in the case, financial hardship, substance abuse history), caregiver predictors (kinship to child, desire to raise child, perceived support from the caseworker), and other important contributors of interest (e.g., caseworkers’ years of experience, child age).
Findings revealed the importance of maltreatment type, parent compliance, caregivers’ kinship to child, and caregivers’ desire to raise the child in their care as important and robust predictors of case placement outcome. Significant age effects contributed to additional analyses examining predictors of case placement outcome for younger and older children separately. Neglect predicted a decreased likelihood of family reunification and, for younger children, an increased likelihood of termination of parental rights. Parent compliance predicted an increased likelihood of family reunification and a decreased likelihood of both termination of parental rights and having a “pending/ongoing” case. Children being cared for by kin had an increased likelihood of family reunification (only if they were younger children) and a decreased likelihood of termination of parental rights. Caregivers desire to raise the child in their care predicted a decreased likelihood of family reunification and an increased likelihood of termination of parental rights. Case duration was not predicted by parent and caregiver factors. Implications for child welfare focus on encouraging parental compliance through continued caseworker support, when possible, and emphasizing the importance of caregiver characteristics on dependency case outcomes.