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Caseworkers' stories: Perspectives on the foster care experience

26 July 2004


This study sought to illuminate foster care caseworkers' work-related experiences employing a qualitative research design. It was hoped that this type of investigation would yield information about caseworkers' lived experiences to enhance our knowledge of the foster care system. A total of 9 foster care caseworkers were recruited through local state offices; each was interviewed for one hour using a semi-structured interview to elicit their narratives. The interviews were transcribed and coded using a recursive method in which smaller meaning units were extracted fIrst, then categorized into larger sub themes and, finally, even larger overarching themes encompassing all the data. A total of 4 major themes emerged from the data, with 26 subthemes clustered beneath them. The four major themes were (1) Systemic Issues; (2) Stress, Challenges, and Concerns; (3) Rewards and Positives; and (4) Coping and Self-Care. These themes were found to be the aspects of experience that had the most significance to caseworkers currently working within the foster care system. Examples of subthemes within these overarching categories were Working with Multiple Service Providers, Experiencing Unpredictable and Overwhelming Work, Observing Positive Change, and Managing Boundaries. The data were.compared to the extant literature, and implications of the findings were discussed.


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