Intervention Could Increase Permanent Placement for Foster Children

“Approximately 95% of foster children experience at least one placement disruption while in out-of-home care, and the adverse effects of these disruptions on psychosocial functioning are well-documented,” said researchers who recently conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Preschoolers (MTFC-P). The MTFC-P is an intervention designed to improve social behaviors, strengthen learning and reduce cognitive delays.  Additionally, this program provides continuous support to caregivers to help mitigate behavior problems and increase permanent placements. “Moreover,” added the researchers, “recent evidence has suggested that such disruptions are also associated with negative effects on brain development.”  A team from the Oregon Social Learning Center, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University employed the Parent Daily Report Checklist (PDR), a telephone interview designed to evaluate problem behavior in children receiving foster care, to measure the effectiveness of the MTFC-P.

Half of the 117 children in the study were placed in the treatment foster care (TFC), while the other half received regular foster care (RFC). The caregivers completed the PDR interviews, which involved identifying disruptive behaviors, twice each month during the first three months of placement. The results revealed that children in the RFC group had an increased risk of placement disruption that was 2.7 times higher than the children in the TFC group. “We found that foster caregiver reports of child problem behavior during the first 3 months in a new placement predicted placement disruptions over 12 months for the RFC group but not for the TFC group,” said the team. “Identifying young foster children at risk for problem behavior related placement disruptions has substantial policy implications.” They added, “First, identifying such children in preschool could increase the effectiveness of preventative interventions and thereby reduce the financial and psychological costs of placement disruptions. Several researchers have shown that interventions focused on child behavior management and foster caregiver skills reduce problem behavior and promote placement stability.”

Reference:
Fisher, Philip A., Mike Stoolmiller, Anne M. Mannering, Aiko Takahashi, and Patricia Chamberlain. “Foster Placement Disruptions Associated With Problem Behavior: Mitigating a Threshold Effect.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.4 (2011): 481-87. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jeremy Nelson

    Jeremy Nelson

    August 25th, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    This is an excellent idea. I feel that the placement disruption problem may not lie so much with the children but with the foster caregiver’s inability to deal with them properly. Any child in foster care has already been down a tough road to get to that point. You can’t expect them to be angelic. They will come to you with issues and probably scared. Foster caregivers need to be taught better coping mechanisms.

  • nadine hawthorne

    nadine hawthorne

    August 25th, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    If kinship caregivers were given as much support and help as foster caregivers were, maybe less children would need to be placed again and with strangers the next time. If you’re related to the child and open your heart and home to them, you get little in the way of support, financial or otherwise, compared to a foster parent.

    Surely it makes more sense and is less distressing to place them with a familiar face! If anything kinship caregivers should be getting more support to encourage them to do it, not less.

  • Hannah

    Hannah

    August 25th, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Foster care must be so traumatic, and then to think that there are then kids who have to face being uprooted again and again, that has to be such a strain on them.

    But the thing that I have always noticed is that a lot of these kids are placed just anywhere and the foster parents are given little education and support regarding what the actual fostering situation will be like.

    I think that in many cases this makes things even worse for the children, because they need to have a strong parental role model in their lives and may times they just are not getting this.

  • Bernadette Gillis

    Bernadette Gillis

    August 25th, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    Kinship care is done out of love for the child, not an interest in how much money you’ll get from the state for taking them in (unlike some foster parents). However, that doesn’t mean you should be entitled to less help just because you love them!

    I know many grandparents that look after their grandchild who certainly aren’t rich and having a teen around is a drain on their finances but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

    If they are getting less support that can only mean the state is taking advantage of that bond and turning a blind eye in order to save themselves money and resources. Shame on them!

  • ashley

    ashley

    August 25th, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    kids will always feel different when they are in foster care.no matter how good the caretaker is,they will have trouble.worrying about it is not going to help.I think letting the child speak of his fears and then trying and explaining to the child is a better approach.

  • RED Maze

    RED Maze

    August 26th, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    Placement is just like taking a little plant and placing it in a new place.There’s bound to be a reaction from the sapling.

    And taking measures that reduce the negative reaction are always welcome. This is for kids to start a new life and any research in this regard is very much appreciated.

  • Christie

    Christie

    August 26th, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    These are children who have faced a lot of cruelty and adversity in their young lives. Of course they are going to have issues. But don’t you think that the system really is a big cause of this? I mean it takes them forever to get them out of the bad home, so that by the time they are out they are already hardened and scared. And then they typically go to homes where someone is just fostering to get the extra cash. I hate to say that but it is true. Most of the people fostering have no more business keeping kids than the original offending parents did. That is the real sad state of social services being offered for children these days.

  • G.N. Wallace

    G.N. Wallace

    August 27th, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    @nadine hawthorne: I agree and the evidence bears out what you say. Last February’s issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reported on a Dallas caregiving study that followed 1308 kids for three years from when they entered care,572 in kinship care and the remaining 736 in foster care.

    ScienceDaily.com had an article on the findings, entitled Kinship Caregivers Receive Less Support Than Foster Parents Despite Lower Socioeconomic Status. I’ll quote some key points from it:

    “Kinship caregivers were more likely than foster parents to have a low socioeconomic status — they were four times more likely not to have graduated high school and three times more likely to have an annual household income of less than $20,000. However, they were less than half as likely as foster parents to receive any form of financial support, about four times less likely to receive any form of parent training and seven times less likely to have peer support groups or respite care.

    At the three-year follow-up, children in kinship care were more likely to be with a permanent caregiver than were children in foster care (71 percent vs. 56.4 percent). They also had 0.6 times the risk of behavioral and social skills problems and half the risk of using outpatient mental health services or taking psychotropic medications. However, adolescents in kinship care had seven times the risk of pregnancy (12.6 percent vs. 1.9 percent) and twice the risk of substance abuse (34.6 percent vs. 16.9 percent).

    “Our findings indicate that kinship caregivers need greater support services,” the authors write. “The findings also indicate that kinship care may be associated with a reduced risk of ongoing behavioral and social skills problems and decreased use of mental health therapy and psychotropic medications. Conversely, adolescents in kinship care have higher odds of reported substance use and pregnancy. These findings suggest that increased supervision and monitoring of the kinship environment and increased caregiver support services are urgently needed to improve outcomes of children in kinship care.”

  • Brianna Wilson

    Brianna Wilson

    August 27th, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    @G.N. Wallace-It’s clear that kinship caregiving is an avenue that needs to be more rigorously pursued. I have my suspicions that many foster caregivers are in it for the money alone too and don’t really concern themselves too much about the child’s wellbeing or need for stability at all. That’s why they are quick to get them passed on to another foster family out when they start acting up.

    I don’t know what they get per child now, but I know it’s decent enough of an incentive for people to want to do it for financial rather than humanitarian reasons. Plus you also get tax breaks I believe.

  • Maryann Steiner

    Maryann Steiner

    August 29th, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Good progress. Nothing will stress a child out faster than being shuffled from home to home because social workers are unable to get their heads together and give them a permanent residence. It’s like they don’t care about the children, which is ironic.

  • amy jones

    amy jones

    August 29th, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Why is it happening in the first place? Kids need parents. Period. If you’re rotating them from one home to the next frequently then something is completely wrong somewhere. Is it overcrowding? Well, obviously where you’re sending them isn’t overcrowded. So what’s so bad about these kids that no foster parent can handle them for any length of time?

  • Dale Wagner

    Dale Wagner

    August 29th, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    @amy jones: A lot of abused kids that are taken into care need to be put somewhere and put somewhere now. It’s often on an emergency basis. Children can be taken out of their homes in the middle of the night if the police are called for example and the situation is that bad.

    Social services can’t just leave them on a shelf then or at an abusive home and pick them up when there is a perfect matching foster family available for them! When it gets reported, they have to act on it speedily.

    Better to place them in a home that may not be a perfect fit long term than risk more harm to the child. Foster families are well vetted and the homes are safe.

  • Penny Gerrard

    Penny Gerrard

    August 31st, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    @Dale Wagner-You’re right! Being a social worker is a thankless job in the eyes of the public. Heck, if they don’t save a kid, everyone screams “Why couldn’t they see the signs!?” even though the so-called “signs” are things they can’t name themselves. If they take a kid into care too hastily in joe public’s opinion, they yell “Bullies! Why are we allowing this to happen?”.

    It’s insane that we hold them to double standards.

    Social workers do a very hard job under very trying circumstances. I sure wouldn’t want to have to walk into a home and take a child away from an angry parent.

  • Tori Blake

    Tori Blake

    September 1st, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    @Penny Gerrard : Me neither, Penny! It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t in their profession. I admire social workers for taking on board such a challenging, unappreciated job. They must see some heartbreaking sights in their careers.

    I would much rather see them take too many into care and be overzealous than too few and let any child slip through the net. We have to protect the children!

  • Lucy Gordon

    Lucy Gordon

    September 2nd, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    @Tori-There have been a few controversies surrounding social workers in the United Kingdom. Just the other week some of them accused parents of abusing their child because of damaged bones. It would have taken a few minutes to find out the child actually had brittle bone disease.

    Those are the only stories that hit the news. None about how they saved a child from a life of misery and neglect today and every other day ever come up in the media, because it’s part and parcel of their everyday job.

  • F.E. Smith

    F.E. Smith

    September 4th, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    It’s no surprise foster children can be a handful. Pardon the analogy but foster kids are like second hand cars. You didn’t make it, you didn’t buy it, you don’t know where it’s been and everything you’re told about them you’re hearing second hand.

    You can’t expect to understand their inner workings if you haven’t had them from day one. Just do the best you can for the little souls!

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