Differential perceptions of neglect for Native-American families: An experimental design

Alice Kay Locklear
School of Public Service Leadership, Capella University
July, 2014


Utilizing the critical race theory (CRT), this dissertation concentrates on issues regarding the current disproportionate placement of Native American children into foster care. Specifically, 2% of all children in foster care are Native American, even though Native American children only make up 1% of the total number of children in the United States. Additionally, the placement often results in a loss of ethnic culture, heritage, spirituality, values, traditions, and language of Native Americans. The result of foster care placement extends into a loss of self-identity, and possible extinction of this minority population. Social work educators work to empower oppressed populations by reforming culturally inappropriate decision-making practices. Social work students receive instruction to become self-aware of biases, values, beliefs, and attitudes of the social paradigm. This increased understanding of cultural diversity could create a more philosophical worldview. This dissertation addresses the role of social work students' self-perception of ability and the relationship to their recognition and identification of perceived child neglect. The online quantitative study utilized picture imaging with a culturally constructed Native American case vignette to examine undergraduate and graduate social work students' decision-making practices. A field-tested survey instrument (a case vignette) described culturally specific Native American practices and was presented to the participants with pictures of two physically divergent children. Participants were in one of three groups: two groups related to the visual exposure to a picture of a 10-year-old girl and one control group. Participants answered a child neglect checklist modified from the Department of Health and Human Services nomenclature. Within the survey was a follow-up self-assessment of cultural competence. The major findings of the study indicated that ethnicity and level of education were significant predictors of both perceived neglect and cultural competence. The implications of the findings were that social work students enrolled in the graduate courses without a social work education or background should receive additional preparation in cultural competence. A final decision to remove a Native American child from their family should require a consultation with a master's level credentialed social worker.