Child & Family Social Work, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp. 229-238
Despite increasing acknowledgement that active parental participation improves the efficacy of child protection interventions, child welfare workers may marginalize the role of male figures in the household, particularly if they are not biological fathers of the children. This qualitative study looked at the ways child welfare caseworkers in Quebec youth centres (N=22) perceived men who were partners of women with children from a previous union. These men were termed 'stepfathers'. Analysis of social representations developed by the caseworkers showed that three kinds of stepfathers were recognized: 1) men with family member characteristics who had been a part of the family for several years and had developed emotional ties to the children; 2) men who interacted indirectly with the children as a support to the mother in her parental role, and 3) men who were in a relationship with the mother but were minimally or not at all involved with the children. Caseworkers have a variety of strategies for including stepfathers in their interventions, depending on their perception of his role as a resource figure, and the characteristics of the individual situation. The criteria raised by caseworkers in this study could help guide practitioners in deciding when, and how much, to involve stepfathers in interventions. The study highlighted the need for caseworkers to have better indicators as to how to handle situations involving stepfathers.