SOCIAL WORK CASE STUDIES: CONCENTRATION YEAR
Social Work Research: Planning a Program Evaluation
Joan is a social worker who is currently enrolled in a social work PhD program. She is planning to conduct her dissertation research project with a large nonprofit child welfare organization where she has worked as a site coordinator for many years. She has already approached the agency director with her interest, and the leadership team of the agency stated that they would like to collaborate on the research project.
The child welfare organization at the center of the planned study has seven regional centers that operate fairly independently. The primary focus of work is on foster care; that is, recruiting and training foster parents and running a regular foster care program with an emphasis on family foster care. The agency has a residen-tial program as well, but it will not participate in the study. Each of the regional centers services about 45–50 foster parents and approximately 100 foster children. On average, five to six new foster families are recruited at each center on a quarterly basis. This number has been consistent over the past 2 years.
Recently it was decided that a new training program for incoming foster parents would be used by the organization. The primary goals of this new training program include reducing foster placement disruptions, improving the quality of services delivered, and increasing child well-being through better trained and skilled foster families. Each of the regional centers will participate and implement the new training program. Three of the sites will start the program immediately, while the other four centers will not start until 12 months from now. The new training program consists of six separate 3-hour training sessions that are typically conducted in a biweekly format. It is a fairly proceduralized training program; that is, a very detailed set of manuals and training materials exists. All trainings will be conducted by the same two instructors. The current training program that it will replace differs considerably in its focus, but it also uses a 6-week, 3-hour format. It will be used by those sites not immediately participating until the new program is implemented.
Joan has done a thorough review of the foster care literature and has found that there has been no research on the training program to date, even though it is being used by a growing number of agencies. She also found that there are some stan-dardized instruments that she could use for her study. In addition, she would need to create a set of Likert-type scales for the study. She will be able to use a group design because all seven regional centers are interested in participating and they are starting the training at different times.