Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Kara Erolin

Committee Member

Christine Beliard

Committee Member

Pei-Fen Li


Each year thousands of children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care where they lose connections with their family, community, and friends. Coakley (2007) points out that children of color are overly represented within the child welfare system, and there is a lack of research on Black fathers and their involvement when their children become a part of the system. Studies have suggested that most families that encounter the child welfare system have adult males who are actively involved with their families, however, child welfare workers do not engage these men (Coady, Hoy, & Cameron, 2013). The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of Black fathers who were previously involved in the child welfare system. Semi-structured interviews were completed with four Black fathers who were previously involved with the child welfare system. Five major themes emerged during the process of data analysis that illuminated the fathers’ experiences and gave meaning to their stories, including case worker attitude, services overload, intergenerational child welfare involvement, feelings of helplessness and willingness to comply. There were also several sub-themes for three of the larger themes. The findings are discussed in light of current literature about father involvement in child welfare, and Black fathers in particular. Implications of the findings are discussed for the field of family therapy, future research and practice. It is my hope that the information obtained from this study will help inform current practices within child welfare and the field of marriage and family therapy to more effectively engage Black fathers in the child welfare system.