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Foster parents play a crucial role in providing safe and stable homes to maltreated children placed in out-of-home care and in doing so are tasked with many challenges. Understanding how foster parents are able to overcome the challenges inherent to fostering, to continue to foster children long term, and to maintain a healthy level of family functioning provides insight into key retention and recruitment efforts. Twenty foster families, all of whom had fostered over 5 years and rated as healthy functioning on the Family Assessment Device, participated in in-depth interviews to discuss the strengths their families relied on that allowed them to demonstrate resiliency. Empathy emerged as an essential foundation in the resiliency process. Foster families demonstrated empathy in three specific ways. First, was with the children they fostered, second was with the biological families of the children, and third was with the child welfare workers. Foster parents also attributed the empathy their children (fostered, adopted, and biological) demonstrated to the experience of being a foster family. The findings from this study have implications for both the child welfare workforce and foster families.
J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:37713779
DOI 10.1007/s10826-016-0529-z
Empathy as an Essential Foundation to Successful Foster Parenting
Jennifer M. Geiger
Megan Hayes Piel
Cynthia A. Lietz
Francie J. Julien-Chinn
Published online: 2 September 2016
© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract Foster parents play a crucial role in providing
safe and stable homes to maltreated children placed in out-
of-home care and in doing so are tasked with many chal-
lenges. Understanding how foster parents are able to over-
come the challenges inherent to fostering, to continue to
foster children long term, and to maintain a healthy level of
family functioning provides insight into key retention and
recruitment efforts. Twenty foster families, all of whom had
fostered over 5 years and rated as healthy functioning on the
Family Assessment Device, participated in in-depth inter-
views to discuss the strengths their families relied on that
allowed them to demonstrate resiliency. Empathy emerged
as an essential foundation in the resiliency process. Foster
families demonstrated empathy in three specic ways. First,
was with the children they fostered, second was with the
biological families of the children, and third was with the
child welfare workers. Foster parents also attributed the
empathy their children (fostered, adopted, and biological)
demonstrated to the experience of being a foster family. The
ndings from this study have implications for both the child
welfare workforce and foster families.
Keywords Empathy Foster parents Foster care
Resilience Fostering
Despite the benets of fostering, families who care for
children in out-of-home care acknowledge the stress asso-
ciated with this role. Several studies exploring the chal-
lenges faced by foster parents have found that families
report that they experience difculties navigating the child
welfare system, lack needed services and supports, and at
times report feeling undermined or undervalued (Brown and
Calder 1999; Chipungu and Bent-Goodley 2004; Heller
et al. 2002; Swartz 2004). Many studies describe difculties
related to fostering children with high levels of trauma
(Brown 2015; Ko et al. 2008; Pecora et al. 2009), children
experiencing mental health problems (Stahmer et al. 2005),
and children with disabilities (Brown and Rodger 2009).
Moreover, foster parents often have to manage difcult
relationships with biological families, and at times struggle
with conicted emotions of wanting reunication, but
feeling at odds based on their views on what is best for the
child (Hudson and Levasseur 2002).
Brown and Calder (1999) studied the challenges that
foster parents perceive. In qualitative telephone interviews,
49 individuals from 30 foster families were asked to
describe their challenges in response to the question, What
would make you consider stopping foster parenting?
(p. 482). The following four clusters were identied: (1)
problems with the child welfare department, (2) perception
of low importance, (3) safety, and (4) stress and health.
Geiger et al. (2013) reported similar ndings in their mixed
method study examining the factors impacting foster par-
entsdecision to continue fostering. From a sample of 649
foster parents, the authors identied challenges such as
difcultly navigating the child welfare system, decreases in
the reimbursement rates and in the number of quality
*Jennifer M. Geiger
Jane Adams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at
Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
School of Social Work, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA
School of Social Work, Center for Child Well-Being, Arizona
State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... In addition, children often emulate their parents' emotion regulation strategies, suggesting that parents' effective self-regulation not only benefits themselves, but also facilitates adaptive child emotion socialization (Hajal & Paley, 2020). Similarly, parents' empathy is essential to maintaining family resilience (Geiger et al., 2016). Maternal empathy is associated with positive child outcomes such as prosocial behaviors (Farrant et al., 2012) and may protect against toddler behavior problems when mothers experience high stress (Walker & Cheng, 2007). ...
... Notably, the present study found that parents' intrapersonal resources (i.e., coping, emotion regulation, and empathy) may serve a protective function against later perceived family dysfunction for both mothers and fathers. In existing literature, the ameliorating effects of parents' strong coping, emotion regulation, and empathic abilities on child developmental outcomes are well-documented (Altiere & von Kluge, 2009;Geiger et al., 2016). However, far less research has considered the impact of parents' internal resources on overall family functioning. ...
Understanding family functioning, particularly the risk and protective factors that may contribute to adaptive versus maladaptive family processes, is critical to promote child and family well-being and resilience. Guided by family systems theory and the family stress model, this study longitudinally investigated parents' and toddlers' individual-level challenges and parental internal resources as potential predictors of subsequent perceived family functioning (i.e., general family functioning and family conflict), while accounting for earlier couple functioning. First-time mothers' and fathers' reports of psychological distress, perceived child behavior problems, intrapersonal resources (i.e., coping, emotion regulation, and empathy), and couple functioning (i.e., relationship satisfaction and intimate partner violence victimization) were assessed when their child was 18 months and 4 years of age. Using autoregressive path models, results suggested that greater maternal distress and paternal perceptions of toddler behavior problems predicted later reports of perceived family dysfunction, whereas parental intrapersonal resources predicted more adaptive perceived family functioning. Overall, findings indicate mutual or bidirectional influence within the family, consistent with the family systems principle of reciprocal causality. Clinical implications are discussed, including the need to bolster parents' existing strengths as well as providing prevention and early screening of depressive symptoms among parents. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The average length of fostering is between 8 and 14 months with many foster carers closing their homes within one year of fostering (Geiger, Piel, & Julien-Chinn, 2017;Geiger, Piel, Lietz, & Julien-Chinn, 2016). Some foster carers report feeling helpless and unable to adequately support the particular needs of the foster children in their homes. ...
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Foster caring, for both foster and kinship caregivers, can be a challenging and rewarding endeavor. Both prospective and current foster carers have information needs. This article explores the concerns expressed in an open forum social media site (Reddit) by current and prospective foster caregivers. The study examines posts over a three-month span in 2021 and identifies nine key themes of users. Chi-Square analysis is combined with content analysis to better understand the differing needs of active foster caregivers and those who are considering fostering in the future. Prospective foster caregivers want to know about requirements, guidelines, and basic information before making any commitment to an agency. Current foster care providers frequently seek information about how best to help the child in their care and parenting issues. Suggestions are made relative to potential foster parent training improvements and support that might address some of the themes identified. ARTICLE HISTORY KEYWORDS Foster parent; kinship caregiver; prospective foster parent; foster care needs; foster parent training; foster caregiver
... The qualitative study found that changes in attitude were associated with an increase in empathy for the child. Increased empathy for children has been associated with positive caregiving (Padilla-Walker & Christensen, 2011), more resilience in foster carers (Geiger et al., 2016), and successful placements (Oke et al., 2013). The qualitative study also expanded findings that indicated foster carers increased their confidence in fostering. ...
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... 8. Читання наукової літератури, газет, журналів та ресурсів в Інтернеті, які фіксують життя людей з різних країн та соціокультурного середовища, може збільшити емоційний інтелект і здатність співпереживати. Навіть слідкування за людьми різного походження (релігійного, етнічного, політичного) у соціальних мережах може бути дуже корисним [21]. 9. Вправа розпізнавання чужої міміки. ...
... A good match between a child and a foster family might contribute to placement success (Brown & Campbell, 2007;Doelling & Johnson, 1990;Sinclair et al., 2005). Child characteristics and foster carer characteristics are also significant (Brown, 2008;Geiger, Piel, Lietz, & Julien-Chinn, 2016;Miller, Randle, & Dolnicar, 2019;Oke, Rostill-Brookes, & Larkin, 2013;Randle, 2013;Sinclair & Wilson, 2003). In our previous baseline study, we examined which child factorssuch as past placement movements, social-emotional well-being and traumatic events experienced by the childwhich fostering factorssuch as the number of foster carers, foster carers' birth children and other foster children in the family, and the quality of the caregiving environmentand which cultural matching factorssuch as cultural similarity between child and carers contributed to placement success (for an overview of child and fostering factors, see Rip et al., 2020b). ...
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This study examined multi-informant discrepancies (between child, carer, and guardian perspectives) regarding placement success of 39 foster placements, as well as possible factors associated with these discrepancies. We also examined whether these discrepancies in placement success at baseline measurement (T0) are related to placement breakdown at second measurement (T1). The results showed that when placements are rated with a high average placement success score (looking at child-carer and child-guardian dyads), the child and carer, as well as the child and guardian generally agree on the success of the foster placement, showing low discrepancy. In contrast, placements with a low average score on placement success show large discrepancies between the perspectives, which may also lead to breakdown. Results of the multilevel analyses showed that discrepancies regarding placement success were mainly associated with differences in perspectives regarding fostering factors (i.e., quality of the caregiving environment, child-carer and child-guardian relationship) and child factors (i.e., conduct problems, emotional problems). The results indicate that children and their carers or guardians disagree more on the success of the placement if they disagree on the quality of the caregiving environment, the child's conduct and emotional problems, and the quality of the child-carer and child-guardian relationship. The outcomes of our study might be especially helpful for guardians in shaping their guidance practices.
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