Placement disruption in foster care: Children's behavior, foster parent support, and parenting experiences

Child Abuse Negl. 2019 May:91:147-159. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.03.012. Epub 2019 Mar 16.


Background: The majority of children in foster care 24 months or longer experience three or more placements. Children's behavior problems are a primary contributor to multiple moves, but little is known about how behavior problems and other stressors lead to disruptions. This study focused on foster parents' experiences of parenting a child at risk for moves using the determinants of parenting model (Belsky, 1984) to identify potential correlates of difficult parenting experiences and placement disruption.

Objective: To identify factors associated with difficult parenting experiences and placement disruption.

Participants: Foster parents (N = 139) caring for children age 8-14 in long term foster care with a history of two or more moves were randomly selected in a large Midwestern state in the U.S.

Methods: Participants completed a 90-minute telephone interview (86% response rate). Placement moves were tracked prospectively for two years. Parenting experiences and disruption were analyzed using multiple and logistic regression.

Results: Results support aspects of the determinants of parenting model. Behavior problems, children's risk to others, low support, and stress were significantly associated with more difficult parenting experiences (βs = .28, .22, .18, .19, respectively, ps < .05), and more difficult parenting experiences strongly predicted placement disruption (p < .01). Risk to others also predicted disruption before including parenting experiences, with this association becoming nonsignificant after including parenting experiences. Unexpectedly, African American foster parents had a higher risk for disruption, despite more positive parenting experiences.

Conclusions: These findings support attending to foster parents' parenting experiences, children's risk to others, social support and stress to better support placements of children at risk for disruption.

Keywords: Behavior problems; Foster children; Foster parenting; Placement disruption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Foster / psychology*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parenting*
  • Parents
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Social Support