Voices of foster parents and youth: Factors associated with optimal functional adaptation in foster care
Affronti, Melissa L.
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There is a dearth of research on the connection between foster parent characteristics and child outcomes (Orme & Buehler, 2001). Few studies examine foster parents' and foster children's perspectives on how children achieve optimal functioning. The aim of this study was to assess how foster parents facilitate the adjustment and adaptation of children in care. This study used grounded theory methodology (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to elicit a theoretical understanding of the day-to-day interactions between foster parents and children. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 foster parents and 18 young adults 18 to 25 years of age and formerly in care. Foster parents and young adults described the basic social process of committing to the child's needs. Foster parents, the child welfare system, and other significant people were integral to children's processes of adjustment and adaptation. Foster parent commitment was demonstrated by identifying and meeting children's needs; including children equally in the home; providing safety, care, and nurturance; and building trust and attachment. Foster parents also needed to collaborate with the multiple systems involved in these children's lives and with other important people to ensure that children's needs were met. Child welfare system commitment was indicated by consistent communication and coordination with the child and foster parent. Involvement with other people such as teachers and counselors enhanced adaptation and adjustment. Children's use of personal coping skills suggested that resilience plays a significant role in adaptation and adjustment. The results of this study can inform foster parent and child welfare staff trainings and systems procedures. Additional research on the operationalization of foster parent commitment could prove useful in foster parent screening and ongoing assessments.
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