• The CARF assessment tool and the predictability of family characteristics in decisions to reunify separated child-maltreating families

      Kirschner, Dean Robert; Munson, Carlton E. (1996)
      This study was designed to test three hypotheses concerning the ability of a specific risk assessment tool to make probability statements regarding the reunification of child maltreating families. The risk assessment tool tested was the Child At Risk Field (CARF), then in use in the social service agencies of several Pennsylvania counties. It was hypothesized that it could be empirically demonstrated that high scores on the CARF would be associated with non-reunification. This hypothesis was not supported. A second hypothesis was that low scores on the elements of the CARF (the independent variables) would be associated with reunification of the family. This hypothesis was not supported either. Findings regarding the summative risk scores of the CARF, which reflect the family unit at risk of re-abuse, showed that the logistic model did not fit the data. The third hypothesis was that scores on the risk assessment tool for sexually abusive families would not be the same as those for families who were physically abusive. This hypothesis was not supported but four variables (condition, family functioning, perpetrator identity, perpetrator parenting) were found to have differences between the types of abuse despite reunification outcomes. Five elements, non-perpetrator adaption, perpetrator identity, perpetrator parenting, extent of abuse, and non-perpetrator's parenting were significant when the outcome was reunification, and two (condition and nature) were significant when the outcome was non-reunification. The analyses performed in this study included logistic regressions and t-tests. These analyses were unable to support any of the three hypotheses. Though the findings of this study were not statistically significant, social workers interested in protecting children from abuse can still benefit from some of the findings. Family characteristics such as family functioning and the availability of services can lend support to probability statements about reunification. Yet social workers are cautioned about the use of risk assessment tools, specifically the CARF, when making decisions about reunification of child maltreating families. One reason is the high intercorrelations between several CARF elements (independent variables). Another reason is the failure of most of the CARF elements to support probability statements regarding reunification.