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November 2004Vol. 5, No. 9Client-Worker Relationship Is a Factor in Parenting Behaviors

According to a study published recently in the journal Research on Social Work Practice, a good client-worker relationship can have a positive impact on parents' discipline and emotional care of their children.

This study was conducted using 100 families formerly involved with the child welfare system in Long Beach, CA. Of these families, 45 percent were from a family preservation (FP) program and 55 percent were from a traditional family management casework program (FM). Researchers used the Parent Outcome Interview to measure children's academic adjustment, children's conduct, physical child care, discipline and emotional care of children, children's symptomatic behavior, parents' coping, and parents' relationship with the social worker. Findings from the study included:

  • Higher scores in discipline and emotional care were related to parents' perceptions of their relationship with the caseworker as positive.
  • There was a somewhat weaker association between client-worker relationship and the physical care of children and parent coping.
  • There were no associations between client-worker relationship and child outcomes (i.e., academic adjustment, children's conduct, or children's symptomatic behavior).
  • Ability to openly communicate and frequency of visits were predictors of a good client-worker relationship.
  • FP clients, who have more frequent visits with their caseworkers, were generally more satisfied with their worker than FM clients.

Based on these findings, the authors conclude that the client-worker relationship can directly impact parents' actions but not a child's outcomes. In addition, they suggest that relationship-building between caseworkers and families should be a priority for child welfare agencies and training programs.

The full article, "Is the Client-Worker Relationship Associated with Better Outcomes in Mandated Child Abuse Cases?," is available in the September 2004 issue of Research on Social Work Practice (