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Dissertation

The Foster Parent Experience: A Qualitative Study

17 April 2001

Abstract

Foster families face great challenges that impact all members. Foster parents confront unique struggles in providing care for a difficult population and in working for the foster care system. They can be essential to the success of their foster children and to the foster care system. However, little research has been conducted that directly addresses the experiences of foster parents. Most of the limited research with foster parents has focused primarily on them as service providers to the foster care system. This study investigated the subjective meanings and experiences of foster parents to add to the understanding and awareness of this role. Twelve volunteer foster parents were interviewed about their experiences as foster care providers. A phenomenological approach to data analysis was used in search of shared meanings and themes of the foster care experience. Results encompassed four major themes, or superordinate categories: the struggles and systemic problems that foster parents experienced; changes and costs resulting from providing care; rewarding and positive aspects of being a foster parent; and methods for coping with stressors inherent in the foster parent role. The findings suggest that foster parents need better support, services, and training from the foster care system. Despite this need, however, foster parents also experience positive experiences and abundant rewards and satisfactions in their role.


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