Culturally relevant aboriginal child welfare, principles, practice, and policy

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Gilman, Deborah A.
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Aboriginal workers appear to bring a holistic approach to their practice of child welfare. The theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) predicts a relationship between individuals' characteristics such as ethnicity and their beliefs, attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behaviors. Based on this theory, the study compared the intended interventions of 26 Aboriginal workers from Aboriginal child welfare agencies and 32 non-Aboriginal workers from agencies serving rural and remote areas. Workers responded to questionnaires consisting of rating scales and open-ended questions requiring written responses. Results indicated that Aboriginal workers rated a set of mainstream social work practice principles as less frequently relevant to their practice. A repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) indicated that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workers would respond differently to four Aboriginal child welfare vignettes. Specifically, Aboriginal workers indicated that they would be more likely than non-Aboriginal workers to employ less intrusive interventions. They were also more likely to favor some short- and long-term interventions. Workers did not differ in their intentions to employ within-family interventions. Given that non-Aboriginal workers reported completing significantly higher levels of education than Aboriginal workers, analyses of covariance were conducted with education as the covariate. For the practice principles, a MANCOVA indicated no difference between the two groups with respect to relevance ratings. However, a repeated-measures MANCOVA indicated that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workers still differed with respect to their intended interventions. Also, a MANCOVA indicated that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workers differed with respect to their intentions to intervene at varying levels of intrusiveness. Five Aboriginal workers were interviewed to provide a context for the findings. The results suggest that education influences a worker's assessment of the relevance of practice principles. However, the application of these principles is more complex and appears to be influenced by a worker's ethnicity. With respect to culturally relevant Aboriginal child welfare policy, recommendations were made to alter time constraints imposed on Aboriginal child welfare cases and to support interventions that aim to strengthen Aboriginal families.