Document Type

Finding a Fit: Family Realities and Service Responses Series (2003, 2007)

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


Involvement with child protective services (CPS) may be expected to be a stressful experience for parents. Usually their involvement is involuntary, initiated because someone believes they are not caring adequately for their children: this tells them that the community, or someone in the community, does not approve of them as parents. As families who become involved with CPS tend to be economically deprived and socially marginalized, they may view agency intervention as one more sign that they are not accepted by their community. Moreover it brings the fear of losing their children, perhaps forever. In this context, it is especially important to understand parents’ perspectives, so that service providers can respond sensitively to them through the crisis of CPS entering their lives. A sensitive response contributes to a good working relationship, and to the parents’ sense of being respected and valued, conditions that are essential in helping them to improve their family situations.

This research report explores the experiences of sixty-one parents who have had substantial involvement with CPS, with a focus on their own perceptions of this involvement. To better understand the context of parents’ experiences, we asked them to discuss freely their histories, their daily lives, their relationships with family, friends, neighbours, and more formal sources of support. We did not interview CPS workers or foster carers. Other team members in the Partnerships for Children and Families Project did include workers in their interviews; for our part, it was a massive task to organize the 5 data from lengthy interviews with 61 parents, thus the inclusion of other viewpoints was beyond our capacity.