Parenting services for mothers involved with child protective services: Do they change maternal parenting and spanking behaviors with young children?
The most common service provided to parents involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) is parenting training. Nevertheless, most of the programs currently in use with CPS families lack empirical research documenting the effect of parenting training. Moreover, studies of these programs lack observational data with independent reports about changes in parent–child behaviors. Using a nationally representative sample of families investigated by CPS, the authors assessed whether parenting training was related to changes in parenting practices 18 months after training, controlling for maternal, child, and family characteristics. Mothers who received parenting services were compared with mothers who did not receive services even though they had a similar need for services as determined by Propensity Score Matching. This study found some modest benefits in maternal responsiveness and total parenting scores for mothers of 3- to 5-year-old children when these mothers received parenting services, as compared with mothers that did not receive parenting services. However, these findings could not be confirmed with multivariate analysis. These results parallel previous findings that parent training obtained through the Child Welfare System lacks the requisite features to significantly change parenting practices, and they highlight the need for cohesive, national, evidence-based effective parenting training for families involved with CPS.