Foster care during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative analysis of caregiver and professional experiences

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BACKGROUND: Research is needed to facilitate better understanding of how different groups have been impacted by COVID-19, especially those in already strained service systems such as foster care. These inquiries will support further response, recovery and preparedness efforts.

OBJECTIVE: This qualitative study addressed how professionals and caregivers in foster care described being affected by COVID-19 in order to support future research and planning for foster care systems in this pandemic context.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: A sample of foster parents and foster care professionals (N = 357) from a mostly rural, southeastern state in the U.S. participated in the study.

METHODS: Qualitative analysis was conducted of 357 open-ended responses regarding the impact of COVID-19 from a survey distributed in August 2020.

RESULTS: The coding process resulted in the identification of 15 distinct themes: Isolation & Loss of Social Support, Work Changes/Stressors, School Issues, Childcare Issues, No Impact/Positive Changes, Financial Problems, Fear of Contagion, Negative Child Welfare Impacts, Mental Health Problems/Stress, Loss of Faith/Trust & Societal Frustrations, Health & Mental Healthcare Access Issues, PPE & Testing Issues, Grief & Loss, and Marital Problems. Secondary impacts rather than direct physiologic effects of the virus were primarily reported.

CONCLUSIONS: This study underscores the various challenges facing foster care systems, and how the pandemic context is exacerbating many of these issues. Further research is needed to ensure the implementation of adequately complex and nuanced responses that target needs and avoid creating further problems for foster care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105444
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Feb 2022

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  • foster care
  • trauma


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