Julie M. Embrey

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Desportes

Degree Award Date

Spring 2002


Qualitative Analysis, interviews, Characteristics, Successful Foster Care Parents, Therapeutic Foster Care Agency, complex special needs children


Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social Work


The foster care parent is the most vital part of this nation’s foster care program. This qualitative study includes interviews of active treatment foster care parents to determine their demographics and other characteristics. Further analyses will be conducted to compare the twelve foster care parent dyads and to determine primary reasons for becoming foster care parents and their reasons for continuing to provide care for complex special needs children. Prior to investigation, the hypothesized reasons for a foster parent to begin foster care included a spirit of altruism, the possibility of adoption, and a sense of familiarity with the foster care system. A foster parent’s positive attitude toward the agency was also hypothesized to contribute to a success foster care home. In addition, it was hypothesized that families continued to provide foster care for many of the same reasons. The hypotheses were tested using a qualitative experimental design, which employed a series of ten open-ended interview questions used by the experimenter to initiate each interview. The data from this study support the initial hypotheses and provided additional information to characterize a successful foster care home. The results highlighted the importance of successful training programs by a foster care agency, a positive relationship and constant communication with the staff of the agency, and an individual’s familiarity with the foster care system as predictors of a successful foster care placement. As suggested by previous data, monthly stipends and financial reimbursements are not significant predictors of a successful foster care home. The data in this study increases the need for further research in the field in order to accurately typify the characteristics of the successful foster care parent, which would aid foster care agencies in their recruitment of future foster care parents.