Understanding how CASA Volunteers can Improve the Implementation of the Positive Parenting Program

Alexi posing in front of his poster.




Associate Professor; Co-Director, Child Well-Being & Child Welfare (CW2) Specialization; Faculty Director, The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice, & Research

Project Summary

The Positive Parenting Program (Triple-P) is an evidence-based parenting program aimed at increasing reunification rates between caregivers and children. Without evidence-based parenting programs, caregivers would not have the opportunity to further improve the skills needed to appropriately raise their children, resulting in children entering the foster care system. Currently, Triple-P is being piloted in a Community Umbrella Agency (CUA) in Philadelphia. The implementation of Triple-P in Australia has shown promising outcomes in both increased caregiver attendance and higher reunification rates. As Triple-P has been implemented in Philadelphia, research has been conducted to better understand how its implementation can be most effectively carried out within the institutional context of the Philadelphia Child Welfare System. My research study seeks to add to those efforts.

I identified Court Appoint Special Advocates (CASA) as the key stakeholders within the Philadelphia Child Welfare System who would be the focus of my study. CASA volunteers are individuals who advocate for the child as court proceedings determine whether they are to be reunified with their caregivers or be entered into the foster care system. My semi-structured interviews sought to understand whether CASA volunteers knew of Triple-P as well as derive insights as to how their role could be leveraged to increase enrollment rates of caregivers in Triple-P. Fifteen CASA volunteers from the CASA Philadelphia County Office were interviewed.

Findings showed that CASA volunteers did not know that Triple-P was an available parenting program in Philadelphia, but that there was a willingness to learn of the program. Additionally, CASA volunteers first and foremost characterize their role as serving the best interests of the child they are assigned to. Thus, CASA volunteers are more likely to recommend Triple-P to parents and caseworkers if they believe that it is in the best interest of the child. The role currently frames CASA volunteer’s responsibility as finding ways to directly improve the wellbeing of children. At the present moment, Triple-P is seen as an intervention that will improve the wellbeing of parents and then as a consequence improve the wellbeing of children. In order to improve CASA volunteer buy in, Triple-P should be reframed as an intervention that directly improves the wellbeing of children. Additionally, findings imply that there needs to be a more targeted effort at training CASA volunteers on the different evidence-based parenting interventions available in Philadelphia. This should result in increased advocacy of these different programs as solutions to improving the wellbeing of the child they are assigned to.