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Facilitating mental health service use for caregivers: Referral strategies among child welfare caseworkers


  • Bunger, Alicia C.
  • Chuang, Emmeline
  • McBeath, Bowen


Unmet needs for mental health care are common among caregivers involved in the child welfare system. Although child welfare caseworkers are well positioned to identify service needs and refer caregivers to treatment, little is known about the types of referral strategies used in practice, or their effectiveness for promoting mental health service use. The current study examined child welfare caseworkers' use of different referral strategies and the extent to which these strategies are associated with caregivers' receipt of mental health services within a national sample of child welfare cases. Analyses of the second cohort of families from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being suggest that child welfare workers more often use informational strategies for referring caregivers, including suggesting treatment or providing information about treatment options. However, social referral strategies such as providing caregivers with direct assistance in completing applications and making and attending appointments were associated with a greater likelihood of caregivers receiving mental health services. Findings support evidence from other service contexts that service use is facilitated by caseworkers' direct support for arranging services. Implications for research and for child welfare managers and administrators are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Bunger, Alicia C. & Chuang, Emmeline & McBeath, Bowen, 2012. "Facilitating mental health service use for caregivers: Referral strategies among child welfare caseworkers," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 696-703.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:4:p:696-703
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.12.014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fluke, John D. & Oppenheim, Elizabeth, 2010. "Getting a grip on systems of care and child welfare using opposable thumbs," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 41-44, February.
    2. Freisthler, Bridget, 2004. "A spatial analysis of social disorganization, alcohol access, and rates of child maltreatment in neighborhoods," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(9), pages 803-819, September.
    3. Marcenko, Maureen O. & Lyons, Sandra J. & Courtney, Mark, 2011. "Mothers' experiences, resources and needs: The context for reunification," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 431-438, March.
    4. Cora J. M. Maas & Joop J. Hox, 2004. "Robustness issues in multilevel regression analysis," Statistica Neerlandica, Netherlands Society for Statistics and Operations Research, vol. 58(2), pages 127-137.
    5. Marsh, Jeanne C. & Ryan, Joseph P. & Choi, Sam & Testa, Mark F., 2006. "Integrated services for families with multiple problems: Obstacles to family reunification," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(9), pages 1074-1087, September.
    6. Barth, Richard P. & Weigensberg, Elizabeth C. & Fisher, Philip A. & Fetrow, Becky & Green, Rebecca L., 2008. "Reentry of elementary aged children following reunification from foster care," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 353-364, April.
    7. Kohl, Patricia L. & Barth, Richard P. & Hazen, Andrea L. & Landsverk, John A., 2005. "Child welfare as a gateway to domestic violence services," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(11), pages 1203-1221, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. McBeath, Bowen & Collins-Camargo, Crystal & Chuang, Emmeline & Wells, Rebecca & Bunger, Alicia C. & Jolles, Mónica Pérez, 2014. "New directions for research on the organizational and institutional context of child welfare agencies: Introduction to the symposium on “The Organizational and Managerial Context of Private Child Welf," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 83-92.


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