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Social Service Review

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Child welfare--United States, Social service


In this article, we examine child welfare caseworkers’ housing-related service strategies when they serve culturally similar versus culturally dissimilar clients. Testing hypotheses drawn from representative bureaucracy theory and using data from the second cohort of the National Survey of Child and AdolescentWell-Being, we find that when non-Caucasian caseworkers share the same racial/ethnic background as caregivers, caseworkers use more active strategies to connect caregivers to needed housing services. The relationship between racial/ethnic matching and frontline workers’ repertoire of service strategies is most pronounced when the need for housing has been registered formally via referrals and case plans and thus legitimated institutionally. These results reinforce basic tenets of representative bureaucracy theory and provide evidence of the benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in the human service workforce. Our findings also highlight the need for research identifying institutional and frontline organizational factors that enhance the quality of service provision.


Copyright (2014) University of Chicago Press


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