Grandparents' and Social Workers' Experiences with the Child Welfare System: A Case for Mutual Resources

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Child and Youth Services Review, Volume 29, Issue 11, pp. 1439-1453

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the circumstances under which grandparents and child welfare workers have contact with each other, as well as factors that are associated with positive working relationships between them. Data were gathered from 63 grandparents who had a grandchild receiving service from a child welfare agency, as well as from 21 child welfare workers, all of whom were in Ontario. Grandparents and social workers came into contact under five different circumstances: 1) the child welfare agency was perceived by the grandparent to be a resource to the grandchild; 2) the grandparent was perceived to be a resource to the grandchild by the child welfare agency; 3) the grandparent was perceived by the child welfare agency to be a resource to his or her child (the parent of the grandchild) and to the agency; 4) the grandparent was perceived by the child welfare agency to be detrimental to the grandchild; and 5) the child welfare agency was seen by the grandparent as a conduit to the grandchild.

Grandparents identified 6 factors that contributed to positive relationships with social workers: friendliness, emotional and material support, advice and services, provision of information, and competency. Social workers identified 6 factors associated with positive relationships with grandparents: caring and respectful attitude, effectiveness as a caregiver, information, problem-focused, and compliancy. The reciprocal exchanges between grandparents and social workers were characterized as an exchange of largely intangible socio-emotional resources, although it was noted that social workers have a "power advantage" since they are agents of the state.

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