Thesis

Parents' experiences in the dependency court system

The purpose of this study is to explore the phenomenon of the dependency court process in Child Welfare from the parents’ perspective. The research question that guided the study is the following: What are parents’ experiences as they navigate the dependency court system in child welfare? A phenomenological, qualitative research approach was used in order to understand the participants' experiences and perspectives. For the purpose of data collection, one-on-one interviews were conducted with 8 parents who have attended the detention, jurisdiction, and disposition hearings. Themes were identified as a result of listening to parents’ perspectives and experiences. Conclusions are stated as a conceptual framework that represents parents’ perspective on what their lived persistent meaning of the dependency court experience is. This study is intended to bring awareness and a greater sense of the importance of a positive dependency court experience in a parent’s life. It can serve as a starting point for discussion and change in regard to giving parents a voice, hiring staff who are devoted to providing the support and understanding what these parents need, and providing professional development for social workers and other professionals. Implications for future research and policy change are also presented.

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