Parental Satisfaction at Work May Reduce Potential for Child Abuse or Neglect

While parental unemployment is a known risk factor for child abuse and neglect, a new study finds that a parent’s satisfaction in the workplace may play an even more important role.

The findings, published this January in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, are based on a study of mothers referred by Child Protective Services to a treatment program for child neglect and substance abuse. To gauge a parent’s risk of being reported for child abuse researchers used an assessment tool called the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI).

Of the 72 participants, those who reported greater employment satisfaction scored lower on the CAPI and were less likely to fail a drug test or report drug use. Employment satisfaction proved the most significant employment-related determinate of abuse – more significant than income or number of days employed.

The study concludes that meaningful interventions in child maltreatment should not only help parents find work, but also focus on modifying attitudes and teaching behaviors that help parents derive more satisfaction from their work.

In Los Angeles, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) may refer a parent reported for child maltreatment to a variety of training and rehabilitation programs. While some do provide the comprehensive training and support that leads to meaningful employment, families encounter unequal access to these services.

“Meeting DCFS requirements can be difficult for our clients, we aim to meet most of their needs but do not currently offer employment services,” said Casey Spicer, a caseworker with the Westside Children’s Center in Culver City.  In some cases, compliance requires parents to participate in multiple programs – operated by multiple providers with no guarantee of receiving employment services.

Wende Nichols-Julien, CEO of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Los Angeles, says because the county lacks a formal procedure for connecting families to services, the responsibility falls on case managers to determine the level of engagement with community providers. As a result, “People are falling through the cracks and failing to get the services they deserve,” Nichols-Julien said.

Last month, in an effort to expand meaningful work opportunities, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a temporary services registry pilot project. Proposed by supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn, the registry will connect residents facing barriers to employment to temporary clerical jobs in county departments. The pilot requires 51 percent of program participants to be “target workers“; this includes custodial single parents, residents with criminal backgrounds and current or former foster youth.

The registry will be piloted in county departments which serve the target population: the Departments of Public Social Services, Children and Family Services, Mental Health, and Child Support Services. The Board of Supervisors hopes the registry will provide valuable work experience and a path to long-term employment with the county or elsewhere.

The 24-month pilot project is set to begin in April of this year. After two years it will be evaluated based on the rate of participant retention and level of career advancement.



Gabrielle Tilley is a graduate student of public policy and a passionate advocate for change. Prior to her candidacy for Master of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, Gabby served two AmeriCorps VISTA terms with the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps. She wrote this story as part of USC’s Media for Policy Change course. 

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