Date of Award

4-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

School of Social Work

Abstract

With a significant number of children in the foster care system in need of safe and stable homes, caregivers who are willing to provide such a home are vital. In 2010, almost fifty percent of foster homes were non-kinship placements with caregivers who had no biological relation to the child (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2011). As these caregivers voluntarily open their homes, they are also likely to encounter challenges with foster children due to previous traumas. The specific challenges addressed in this research study included the integration into the family, the management of behaviors, and the ability to make/break attachments. The intent was to identify the emotional and psychological impacts on foster parents as a result of these challenges, which was accomplished through the discussion of experiences. Given the volume of literature about attachment and foster care, the purpose of the study was to focus solely on the experiences and the identifiable emotional and psychological impacts as shared by foster parents, rather than an exploration of each potential risk and protective factor related to both attachment and foster care.

The data collection consisted of interviews conducted with foster parents, with an established interview protocol. The sample included fourteen participants, comprised of two single females, five heterosexual couples and one couple identified as house parents. The participants were Caucasian and broadly characterized as middle socio-economic status, employed, and educated with adopted/biological children. The interviews were transcribed and assessed for emerging themes, commonalities and discrepancies; psychological and emotional impacts were identified and discussed also. As the findings indicate, despite the intensity, these impacts did not serve to deter participants from continuing their role as foster parents in the future. Overall, the findings were largely consistent with previously cited research and provided important implications including more stringent policies applicable to practice, continuous trainings for foster parents, and increased accountability, communication and sharing of evidence-based practices between families and the agency. In addition, the findings helped to determine if these impacts served as deterrents to foster in the future, and provided insight into how caregivers may better be supported for their invaluable service.

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