Assessing the Family Support Scale

Last month Jayme Swanke of the SIUE Department of Social Work presented a paper at the annual Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) conference in Washington DC.

The paper titled, “Measuring Social Support Among Kinship Caregivers: Validity and Reliabilty of the Family Support scale,” was a collaborative work between Swanke and researchers at East Carolina University as well as the University of South Florida. The goal of the paper was to assess the validity of using the Family Support Scale (FSS) to assess situations of kinship care.

An 18 item five point Likert scale, the FSS was initially developed to assess social support for parents raising children with developmental disabilities. Since development the scale fell into common use for measuring the social support systems of kinship caregivers (relatives other than the biological mother or father who take on the role of primary parent). Previous research had shown that caregivers in these situations are frequently alienated from their previous support structures and placed into new support systems as a result of caring for the child. An example would be a grandparent who finds themselves interacting more frequently with members of the PTA and less frequently with friends their own age as a result of caring for the child.

“Our goal was to determine weather that scale is accurately measuring social support for kinship caregivers,” Swanke explained, “our outcomes were favorable and we determined it was a valid scale.”

The study assessed the scale using a four factor structure across a sample of 255 kinship caregivers. The resulting data showed that the scale was sufficiently accurate for use in kinship cases.

Swanke presented the paper at the CSWE annual conference in November. The CSWE is a nonprofit national association of over 2,500 members who help promote social work eduction through their efforts to provide a forum in which issues of social work education can be discussed. The paper was also recently published in the Journal of Child Abuse.

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