Research Watch

Promising results from a preliminary evaluation of a child welfare parenting intervention for parents with intellectual disabilities

Year of Publication
Reviewed By
Nico Trocme

Augsberger, A., Zeitlin, W., Rao, T., Weisberg, D., & Toraif, N. (2021). Examining a child welfare parenting intervention for parents with intellectual disabilities. Research on Social Work Practice31(1), 65-74.


Six percent of parents investigated by child welfare authorities in Canada are considered to have a cognitive impairment, and 11% of the children investigated have a developmental or intellectual disability (Trocmé, Fallon, MacLaurin et al CIS 2008, pages 39-41). While parents with intellectual disabilities are overrepresented in child welfare, there is a dearth of services specifically addressing their needs. Improving Parenting Achievements Together (IMPACT) is an intensive in-home behaviourally based parenting program designed for parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities at risk for child removal and placement. Participants receive in-home parent education training from three times a week for 4–6 months. Topics covered include parent–child interaction skills, basic childcare, child development, home/health safety, home management, parent advocacy, and problem-solving/planning skills.

Using a mixed-methods design, this study described the participation and outcomes for 99 parents and children involved with an IMPACT program delivered by the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS) in New York State between 2006 and 2017.  Measures included the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Inventory, the Child Behavior Checklist and a parenting skills measure developed by the authors.  In addition, the authors reviewed client and worker satisfaction surveys and tracked placement outcomes for 12 months following the completion of the program. 

Outcomes were positive.  The amount of time spent in the program was (1) positively associated with improvement in parenting skills and the home environment and (2) was led to reduced odds of out-of-home placement.  Parents and workers were very satisfied with the program, and identified service intensity, tailored programming, community engagement, and client–worker relationship as key components of success. 

Methodological Notes

This is the second evaluation of Improving Parenting Achievements Together (IMPACT) conducted by the Trupti Rao and colleagues.  In both instances the evaluations have focused on examining outcomes for parents receiving the service.  Without a control group, however, the results must be interpreted as preliminary.   It should also be noted that while the sample size for this second study is relatively large (N=99), the participants were recruited over a ten-year period.  While the outcomes included a good range of measures including parenting, child behavior and the home environment, these included a mix of standardized and project developed measures completed by the IMPACT therapists.  Notwithstanding these limitations, given the dearth of evaluated programs for parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the results are certainly promising and warrant replication of the program in other settings along with more systematic evaluation.