COVID-19 Web Panel: Policies Affecting Child Welfare Systems and Non-Custodial Parents

June 25, 2020

Panelists: Armon Perry, Waldo Johnson, and Natasha Cabrera

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a number of difficulties for those involved in shared child custody arrangements, including visitation challenges, financial hardships with implications for child support orders, and family court closures. Such difficulties create care-giver stress and promote child behavioral and emotional issues that threaten the stability and well-being of families. This virtual dialogue brings together a panel of prominent researchers engaged in both scientific and applied work related to fatherhood, parenting, and child development, to highlight COID-19 related implications for non-custodial parents and to discuss creative suggestions for intervention.

Discussion Highlights

  • The pandemic has disrupted family routines (e.g., visitation schedules), increasing the pressure for primary care-givers, as well as heightening the risk for emotional and behavioral issues in children. Increased access to culturally appropriate mental health services is needed.

  • Many non-custodial parents with child support obligations are facing financial hardship due to lay-offs or furloughs and are having difficulties advocating for adjustments as family courts have closed. Limiting child support enforcements as non-custodial parents regain self-sufficiency would be helpful.

  • Gatekeeping behaviors may prohibit non-custodial parents from seeing and maintaining connections to their children. Aside from a possible investment in a national set of guidelines around visitation, stronger co-parenting relationships can be promoted to decrease the likelihood of this behavior.

  • Support is needed to aid families in navigating community resources, ensure their quality, and diminish the stigma around taking advantage of them.

Panelist Bios:


Armon Perry

Armon R. Perry, Ph.D., MSW is a Professor and Director of the BSW Program at the University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work. Dr. Perry teaches Introduction to Social Work. Dr. Perry’s research interests include fathers’ involvement in the lives of their children, leading him to co-edit, Fatherhood in America: Social Work Perspectives in a Changing Society, a comprehensive edited volume addressing the micro and macro factors shaping paternal involvement. Currently, Dr. Perry serves as the Principal Investigator of the 4 Your Child Program, a federally funded multi-site project that aims to increase non-resident fathers’ capacity for paternal involvement. In addition to his teaching and research, Dr. Perry has professional experience in the areas of child protective services and as a parent education curriculum facilitator.

Waldo Johnson

Waldo E. Johnson, Jr. is associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has published extensively on nonresident fatherhood and the life course roles and experiences of urban African American males. His active research affiliations include the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation of the University of Chicago, the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) at the Institute for Social Research, the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health and Scholars Network on Masculinity and the Well-Being of African American Males, all at the University of Michigan. He is also a member of the Poverty and Transitions to Adulthood Network, University of Wisconsin Madison; and the Working Group on Health Disparities in Men and Boys, Public Interest Directorate, American Psychological Association. Professor Johnson previously served on the Steering Committee, Fatherhood Research and Practice Network, Temple University and the Welfare Research and Family Self-Sufficiency Technical Working Group, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services. He served as a research consultant for the Parents and Children Together (PACT) Study, the federal ACF mixed-methods longitudinal responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage study during the Obama Administration led by Mathematica Policy Research. He is the editor of Social Work with African American Males: Health, Mental Health and Social Policy (2010, Oxford University Press).

Natasha Cabrera

Natasha J. Cabrera, Ph.D, is Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on father involvement and children’s social and cognitive development; adaptive and maladaptive factors related to parenting and cultural variation in ethnic minority families; and, the mechanisms linking early experiences to children’s school readiness. Dr. Cabrera has published in peer-reviewed journals on policy, methodology, theory and the implications of fathering and mothering behaviors on child development in low-income minority families. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 2nd Edition (Taylor & Francis, 2013) and Latina/o Child Psychology and Mental Health: Vol 1 and 2 (Praeger, 2011). Dr. Cabrera is the recipient of the National Council and Family Relations award for Best Research Article regarding men in families in 2009. In 2015, the National Academy of Sciences appointed her to its committee on parents of young children; in 2016, she was a Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar; and, in 2017 she was a DAAD visiting scholar, University of Ruhr, Germany. She is co-PI at the National Center for Research on Hispanic Families and Children co-directing the fatherhood and healthy marriage focus area.

Related Content: Child Welfare | COVID-19