Degree Date

5-2017

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work and Social Research

Abstract

Foster care is an integral component to ensure children removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect can begin the healing process. Despite the importance of foster care, a shortage of foster homes in the United States continues to limit caseworkers’ abilities to place children in homes appropriate to their needs and contributes to children experiencing multiple placements. Examining the intersection between the public and private world of mothering, as conceptualized by Ruddick (1995), and the public systemic factors of the child welfare system provides a lens to understand the shortage of foster parents. Nutt (2006) describes the intersection as a tension between private and public worlds, and this provides a framework to understand how adults experience the licensing process and decide whether to opt in or out of fostering. As individuals move through the licensing process (orientation, pre-service training, home study, and required paperwork), they increase their knowledge and experiences with the foster care system and integrate this knowledge with their identities as mothers. Those adults who lack the skills and/or desire to work around the constraints of child welfare policies to actualize their conception of mothering and/or whose identities as good mothers are challenged may choose to opt out of foster care. A survey was used to collect demographic data on adults who attended initial orientation sessions. Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted with prospective applicants after attendance at the initial orientation session. Follow-up phone interviews were made after pre-service training. An increased understanding of how adults perceive the foster care licensing process serves as an initial step in increasing the available pool of foster parents, thereby improving the care provided to children in state custody. This exploratory study, though not generalizable, is important because it generates a hypothesis to frame future studies regarding foster care recruitment. Keywords: foster care, resource parent, foster parent, parenting, shortage

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