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Foster Parent Strategies to Support the Functional Adaptation of Foster Youth

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Abstract

Individual interviews and focus groups with 35 experienced foster parents explored strategies that facilitate the functional adaptation of children transitioning into their care. Findings from this qualitative study suggest functional adaptation is enhanced by unconditional commitment by foster parents, “claiming” behaviors of foster children and parents, establishment of routines, support of birth family relationships, and advocacy for the youth across systems. Implications of this study support the vital role that foster parents have in helping children adapt to placement, and indicate that agencies can provide increased support for foster parents to better meet the needs of foster youth.

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... Relational well-being in foster family settings have been operationalized a number of ways, including foster home adjustment (Affronti, Rittner, & Semanchin Jones, 2015), foster home adaptation (Dunn, Culhane, & Taussig, 2010;Semanchin-Jones, Rittner, & Affronti, 2016), foster home integration (Leathers, 2002(Leathers, , 2006, positive home integration , and child-caregiver therapeutic alliance (Rauktis, De Andrade, Doucette, McDonough, & Reinhart, 2005). These characterizations illuminate the processes occurring within foster family systems that promote successful adjustment and adaptation (Affronti et al., 2015;Semanchin-Jones et al., 2016), identify factors which contribute to the development of therapeutic alliance between children and their caregivers (Rauktis et al., 2005), and examine associations between youth-foster family relationships and other important dimensions of child welfare practice including child behavior (Leathers, 2002;Leathers, Spielfogel, Gleeson, & Rolock, 2012) placement stability (Leathers, 2006; and permanency (e.g., adoption) (Leathers et al., 2012). ...
... Relational well-being in foster family settings have been operationalized a number of ways, including foster home adjustment (Affronti, Rittner, & Semanchin Jones, 2015), foster home adaptation (Dunn, Culhane, & Taussig, 2010;Semanchin-Jones, Rittner, & Affronti, 2016), foster home integration (Leathers, 2002(Leathers, , 2006, positive home integration , and child-caregiver therapeutic alliance (Rauktis, De Andrade, Doucette, McDonough, & Reinhart, 2005). These characterizations illuminate the processes occurring within foster family systems that promote successful adjustment and adaptation (Affronti et al., 2015;Semanchin-Jones et al., 2016), identify factors which contribute to the development of therapeutic alliance between children and their caregivers (Rauktis et al., 2005), and examine associations between youth-foster family relationships and other important dimensions of child welfare practice including child behavior (Leathers, 2002;Leathers, Spielfogel, Gleeson, & Rolock, 2012) placement stability (Leathers, 2006; and permanency (e.g., adoption) (Leathers et al., 2012). ...
... Research with foster caregivers suggests similar perspectives to youth regarding the importance of family relationships, and highlights the temporal nature of foster youth adjustment and successful foster home integration. Semanchin-Jones et al. (2016) conducted semistructured interviews and focus groups with 35 experienced foster parents to explore the strategies caregivers used to help children adapt to their placement into care. The authors found that a youth's transition into care involved youth experiencing a "settling-in" period, and how long it took a youth to feel integrated into the family varied according to the child's previous family and foster care experiences. ...
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This study sought to identify factors that contribute to the relational well-being of youth in substitute care. Using data from the Supporting Siblings in Foster Care (SIBS-FC) study, youth responded to a 9-item measure of positive home integration, a scale designed to assess the relational experiences of youth to their caregivers and their integration into the foster home. Data were collected from youth in six month intervals, for an 18-month period of time. Latent growth curve modeling procedures were employed to determine if child, family, and case characteristics influenced youth's home integration trajectories. Results suggest stability in youth reports of home integration over time; however, children who were older at the time of study enrollment and youth who experienced placement changes during the period of observation experienced decreased home integration during the 18-month period. Results suggest youth's perspectives of home integration may in part be a function of the child's developmental stage and their experiences with foster care placement instability. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
... Although research in this area is limited for foster caregivers, empowerment gained through knowledge, support, and resources from informal sources (e.g., support from partner, foster parent support groups) may help caregivers feel more efficacious in their parenting role. When the child's needs are met through confident parenting, secure attachments and stable routines are more likely, leading to fewer externalizing behaviors and a decrease in placement disruptions Semanchin Jones, Rittner, & Affronti, 2016). ...
... One specific contextual factor foster caregivers feel unprepared for, based off their training, is caring for a child who is at increased risk for behavioral problems, emotional problems, or trauma (Lanigan & Burleson, 2017;Solomon et al., 2017). Foster caregivers who feel they have been adequately prepared to handle these behaviors will be more likely to feel a connection with their foster child, potentially leading to continued fostering (Semanchin Jones et al., 2016;Solomon et al., 2017). ...
... Scores were then binarized, with zero or one placement change indicating higher placement stability, and two or more changes indicating lower placement stability. The rationale is that one placement change in some cases is just as good as (or better than) none, when the nature of the change is a return to a parent or close relative, an adoption, or another more permanent placement (Semanchin Jones et al., 2016). ...
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This study experimentally tested risk behavior outcomes of Connecting, a low-cost, self-directed, family-based prevention program for families with youth placed in their care by state child welfare agencies. Families caring for youth aged 11 to 15 years from across Washington State were recruited and randomly assigned to either the self-directed program with supplemental support (n = 110) or a treatment as usual control condition (n = 110). Program materials included a workbook with family activities and DVDs with video clips. Over the 10-week program, participants received motivational support contacts to prompt program completion. Survey data were collected from youth and their caregivers at baseline, directly following intervention, then again at 12 and 24 months post-intervention. Intervention effects at 24-month follow-up were found to be moderated by age. Among 16- to 17-year-old youth at follow-up, there was an intervention benefit yielding reduced use of any substance (OR = 0.71, 95% CI [0.54, 0.93], p = 0.01) and nonviolent delinquency (OR = 0.73, 95% CI [0.57, 0.94], p = 0.02). There was no intervention effect among adolescents aged 13 to 15 years for any risk behaviors. This evidence suggests that the developmental timing of a self-directed, family-focused preventive intervention for youth and their caregivers in the foster care system may influence risk behaviors that typically emerge in late adolescence. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03157895.
... Relational stability or permanency involves long-term, caring, and accepting relationships with adults in their lives, such as biological or foster parents (Stott & Gustavsson, 2010). Yet, relational stability for children in care continues to be a major problem for child welfare agencies throughout this country, as less than 40 percent of states average two or fewer placements for children in foster care (Jones et al., 2016). ...
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Placement instability for children in foster care has an adverse effect on child safety, permanency, and well-being. Some studies have examined racial matching between caseworker-child to improve child outcomes, but fewer have explored racial matching in foster care placements and subsequent outcomes. This study examined the impact of same-race foster home placements on placement stability. This study used data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis System (AFCARS), an administrative database containing the children in care for each fiscal year (FY). The analytic sample included n = 36,191 children aged 0–17 years who entered foster care in FY 2015 and were placed with a non-relative foster family and remained in the same placement throughout FY 2015. We followed this sample through FY 2019 to compare racially-matched initial placements and subsequent placement changes. The authors conducted an inverse probability-weighted regression adjustment model using Stata version 16. Approximately three-quarters of children were in a racially matched foster home when they entered foster care, and two-thirds experienced placement stability. Non-Hispanic White children had the highest rates of racially matched placements. After adjusting for other factors, racial matching increased the likelihood of placement stability (b = .05, p < .001). The relationship between child race/ethnicity and placement stability varied among those in racially-matched and transracial placements. Initial findings highlight the importance of recruiting foster families of color and we identify areas for future research that could track child and foster parent characteristics with each placement move.
... Relational permanence is defined as a form of social support characterized by a continually supportive, warm relationship marked by mutual trust and respect with non-parental family figures, peer companions, child welfare professionals, and/or a best friend in the context of the foster care system (Stott & Gustavsson, 2010). Relational permanence bonds may be formed with biological parents or parental figures, extended family (Samuels, 2008), foster parents (Affronti, Rittner, & Semanchin Jones, 2015;Semanchin Jones, Rittner, & Affronti, 2016), foster care workers (Augsberger & Swenson, 2015), friends (Rutman & Hubberstey, 2016), and other important non parental adults (Farruggia, Greenberger, Chen, & Heckhausen, 2006). These relationships can provide a variety of benefits to adolescents who have few safety nets compared to similarly aged adolescents in the general population. ...
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Most writing on sociological method has been concerned with how accurate facts can be obtained and how theory can thereby be more rigorously tested. In The Discovery of Grounded Theory, Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss address the equally Important enterprise of how the discovery of theory from data--systematically obtained and analyzed in social research--can be furthered. The discovery of theory from data--grounded theory--is a major task confronting sociology, for such a theory fits empirical situations, and is understandable to sociologists and laymen alike. Most important, it provides relevant predictions, explanations, interpretations, and applications. In Part I of the book, "Generation Theory by Comparative Analysis," the authors present a strategy whereby sociologists can facilitate the discovery of grounded theory, both substantive and formal. This strategy involves the systematic choice and study of several comparison groups. In Part II, The Flexible Use of Data," the generation of theory from qualitative, especially documentary, and quantitative data Is considered. In Part III, "Implications of Grounded Theory," Glaser and Strauss examine the credibility of grounded theory. The Discovery of Grounded Theory is directed toward improving social scientists' capacity for generating theory that will be relevant to their research. While aimed primarily at sociologists, it will be useful to anyone Interested In studying social phenomena--political, educational, economic, industrial-- especially If their studies are based on qualitative data.
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Examined parent and child temperament variables in an interactive "goodness-of-fit" model with respect to foster placement (FP) outcome. 51 foster children (aged 5–10 yrs) and their foster mothers (aged 21–69 yrs), teachers, and foster care case workers participated. Data were provided about child's temperament, foster mothers' temperament and satisfaction with foster parenting, success of FPs, and family environment. The "mismatch" of a rigid foster mother and a child of negative mood was predictive of less successful FP outcome, as was the placement of a child of more negative mood than expected by the foster mother.
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During the past decade there has been rapid progress in the understanding of the effects of exposure to traumatic life experiences on subsequent psychopathology in children. Trauma exposure affects what children anticipate and focus on and how they organize the way they appraise and process information. Trauma-induced alterations in threat perception are expressed in how they think, feel, behave, and regulate their biologic systems. The task of therapy is to help these children develop a sense of physical mastery and awareness of who they are and what has happened to them to learn to observe what is happening in present time and physically respond to current demands instead of recreating the traumatic past behaviorally, emotionally, and biologically.
Article
This paper reports on a longitudinal study of children growing up in long-term foster family care. It focuses attention on the challenges for foster carers in providing a secure base for foster children in middle childhood and early adolescence, who have come predominantly from backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and psychosocial adversity. Separation and loss in the children's lives, often through multiple placements, increase the likelihood of difficulties across a range of development. These children tend to be wary, distrustful, and controlling when they enter foster placements, but need from their carers many of the caregiving qualities most commonly described as providing a secure base in infancy. This study describes a model of parenting which uses four caregiving dimensions that are consistent with attachment theory and research: promoting trust in availability, promoting reflective function, promoting self-esteem, and promoting autonomy. A fifth dimension, promoting family membership, is added, as it reflects the need for children in long-term foster family care to experience the security that comes from a sense of identity and belonging. Qualitative data from the study demonstrates the usefulness of this model as a framework for analysis, but also suggests the potential use of such a framework for working with and supporting foster carers.
Article
This study aimed to examine the association between child behavior problems and caregiver commitment to their child in a group of young foster children. The sample consisted of 102 caregiver-child dyads from the greater Baltimore area. Child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist [CBCL; Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/4-8 and 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry; Achenbach, T. M. (1992). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/2-3 and 1992 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry], and caregiver commitment was assessed using a semi-structured interview known as the "This is My Baby" Interview [Bates, B., & Dozier, M. (1998). "This Is My Baby"coding manual. Unpublished manuscript, University of Delaware, Newark]. For a sub-sample of the dyads (N=76), we examined caregiver commitment and parent-reported child behavior at two time points in order to examine the stability of a caregiver's commitment over time and to examine the direction of the association between the two variables. Overall, caregiver reported child behavior was significantly associated with caregiver commitment. Both caregiver reported child behavior and caregiver commitment were highly stable over an 11-month period. When we examined the data over time, the effect of caregiver reported child behavior at time 1 on caregiver commitment at time 2 was not significantly larger than the effect of caregiver commitment at time 1 on caregiver reported child behavior at time 2. As a result, we were not able to determine the direction of the association between caregiver reported child behavior and caregiver commitment. Our results indicate that caregiver reported child behavior is significantly associated with caregiver commitment to their foster children, even after controlling for factors including age of entry into foster care and time in placement.
Article
In 2003, Idaho selected the Foster PRIDE/ Adopt PRIDE preservice training and resource family development program. PRIDE participants (n = 228) completed a pre and posttest survey based on the PRIDE training competencies in 2004-2005. Results indicate that PRIDE is an effective training and resource family development program. Providing and evaluating foster/ adoptive parent preservice training programs can assist child welfare programs in making a positive difference in the lives of families and children involved in the child welfare system while increased cost-savings by retaining foster/adoptive families over time.
Article
This study examined the effectiveness of the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting/Group Selection and Participation of Foster and/or Adoptive Families (MAPP/GPS) foster parent training program in teaching potential foster parents parenting skills. Parents were tested on three measures assessing goals and objectives of the training program as well as parenting skills necessary to address the demanding behaviors of foster children. In comparison to a control group of foster parents whom had not participated in any training program, the results indicated that the MAPP/GPS program did not adequately prepare foster parents according to its own program-identified goals nor did it adequately prepare foster parents to manage behavior problems in foster children. Trained foster parents improved in only four of 12 program-identified goals and in only three of 22 basic parenting skills. The MAPP/GPS program serves more as a decision tool to assist potential foster parents in making the decision to foster rather than prepare them to manage behavior problems in foster children. Implications and improvements for foster parent training are discussed.
Collaborative treatment of traumatized children and teens: The trauma systems therapy approach
  • G N Saxe
  • B H Ellis
  • J Kaplow
Saxe, G. N., Ellis, B. H., & Kaplow, J. (2007). Collaborative treatment of traumatized children and teens: The trauma systems therapy approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Early childhood trauma
Zero to Six Collaborative Group, National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2010). Early childhood trauma. Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Retrieved from http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/nctsn_earlychildhoodtrauma_08-2010final.pdf
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  • D Gibbs
Gibbs, D. (2005). Understanding foster parenting: Using administrative data to explore retention. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
Model approach to partnerships in parenting (MAPP) Retrieved from http A comparative evaluation of preservice training of kinship and nonkinship foster/adoptive families
  • B Children 's Alliance
  • J Mcmurtry
Children's Alliance. (n.d.). Model approach to partnerships in parenting (MAPP). Retrieved from http://www.gomapp.com/tipsmapp.php Christenson, B., & McMurtry, J. (2007). A comparative evaluation of preservice training of kinship and nonkinship foster/adoptive families. Child Welfare, 86(2), 125-140.
Qualitative research methods
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  • D Ezzy
Liamputtong, P., & Ezzy, D. (2005). Qualitative research methods. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
  • C Casanueva
  • L Stambaugh
  • S Tueller
  • M Dolan
  • K Smith
Casanueva, C., Stambaugh, L., Tueller, S., Dolan, M., & Smith, K. (2012). NSCAW II Wave 2 Report: Children's Services. OPRE Report #2012-59 Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.