Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Melissa Abell


Family preservation services are intended to prevent the out-of-home placement (into foster care or some other alternative arrangement) of children and youth in families at risk of maltreating them. An Ecological Systems perspective of these families might suggest that a family’s context (represented by the variables of poverty, agency services, family history, and individual/caretaker characteristics) must be considered as an over-arching influence in families’ risk and outcomes. The purpose of this cross-sectional secondary data analysis study was to identify layered factors that distinguish family preservation cases in Richmond, VA that experience removal or subsequent abuse or neglect from those that do not, in order to make recommendations about how services can be better directed to support families in caring for their children and youth. Using Hierarchical Discriminant Function Analysis, this research project evaluated the “predictive” values of the external conditions and internal characteristics of family recipients of the Richmond, Virginia Department of Social Services corollary to family preservation services on the outcomes of (a) successful case closure, (b) out-of-home placement during services, and (c) child maltreatment after case closure. Contextual factors (poverty), Agency factors (number of services and ratio of concrete services), Family factors (history of placement, chronicity of maltreatment, abuse risk score, and neglect risk score), and Individual/Caretaker factors (caretaker substance abuse, caretaker mental health, and family structure) were investigated. The findings of this study showed that poverty, agency characteristics, and family characteristics each directly explained substantial amounts of variance among the outcomes and that poverty, provision of concrete services, and a family history of foster care placement best distinguished among families experiencing these different outcomes. These findings highlight the need of family preservation programming to directly address conditions of poverty in abuse and neglect risk, and suggest that the services provided to the families need better targeting to families’ needs. Recommendations based on this study include the development of a theory-based, local-evidence-based model of services for family preservation services at the agency for which the research was conducted.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010

Included in

Social Work Commons