Children and Youth Services Review
Research indicates that fathers in the child welfare system provide benefits to children's well-being and positive development, yet child welfare workers often do not engage fathers in services. Previous studies in Canada and the United Kingdom have found that child welfare training perpetuates negative perceptions of fathers. The current study conducted a content analysis of 217 vignettes in the texts used in required classes for students completing a concentration in child welfare classes in nine schools of social work at the public universities in a Southern U.S. state. Coding was completed independently by three researchers with an inter-rater reliability of 79%. Findings indicated that despite men being the perpetrator in 51% of vignettes, women were portrayed in just over half of vignettes (51%) as the sole caregiver responsible for ensuring the child's safety when the abuse occurred. The data were organized into five themes of how men and women were portrayed in the vignettes: Men as Threat, Men as No Different than Women, Men as Irrelevant, Men as Absent, and Women as Default Clients (the first four suggested by Scourfield (2001), and the last by the researchers). Results indicate that the bias against including fathers in child welfare services reported in other studies seems to start at the beginning of students' learning about child welfare work, in their required textbooks. Recommendations include updating child welfare textbooks to better address the role of men and fathers in children's lives, and increasing professors' and field instructors' awareness of the bias against men and fathers in child welfare. (Author abstract)
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