Program

Enhanced Services and Stipends for Foster Parents

Dec 21, 2011

OVERVIEW

Enhanced services
and stipends for foster parents are implemented to help achieve improvements in
the foster care system, such as more stable foster care for children and fewer
parents dropping out of foster care programs. These services include monthly
payment supplements (in addition to the reimbursements foster parents already
receive) and additional support and training for foster parents in the form of
group meeting sessions and telephone contacts. An experimental evaluation of
foster parents utilizing such services found that both the enhanced services and
the increased payment only groups had lower dropout rates than those in the
control condition. Children in the enhanced services condition also had
significantly more successful days in care and significantly greater drops in
parent-reported child problem behaviors than either of the other two
conditions.

DESCRIPTION OF
PROGRAM

Target
Population:
Children in foster care

The intervention
program consists of providing foster parents with two types of additional,
enhanced services. The first comprises parents attending, once a week, two-hour
group meetings with other foster parents and a trained facilitator. Group
facilitators are former foster parents and have been trained in behavior
management methods for conduct-disordered and aggressive children/teenagers.
Additionally, the facilitator is supervised by an experienced group therapist
who acts as a clinical consultant. By creating a supportive atmosphere of value
and respect for foster parent efforts, participants are encouraged to discuss
(based on experience) which techniques do and do not work to manage child
behavior. Three types of behavior management methods are emphasized throughout
the meetings: 1) nonphysical discipline methods that focus on teaching instead
of punishing the child, 2) problem-solving strategies for dealing with problems
created by children in foster homes, and 3) incentive systems for encouraging
and teaching positive and appropriate child behaviors. Within the first two
months of group meetings, participants are given brief instructional sessions on
each method, followed by a videotaped example. In addition to the meetings, the
group facilitator acts as a continuous consultant to parents to develop and
utilize these methods.

Along with the
group meetings, each foster family receives three telephone contacts per week
from the group facilitator. While these conversations are generally brief (5 to
10 minutes), the calls can be longer if a parent wants to discuss problems with
the child or their family that are having an impact on the placement. There are
three main goals for each call: 1) to provide support to foster parents, 2) to
trouble-shoot any problems that are occurring and help guide parents in using
strategies discussed in group meetings, and 3) to collect data on the study
child’s behavior adjustments during the previous 24 hours, using the Parent
Daily Report checklist, which then informs the training agendas for future
weekly meetings.

In addition to the
two supplemental services discussed above, parents receive an increased monthly
payment of $70 to help cover increased time and expenses incurred as result of
participation in these enhanced services.

EVALUATION OF
PROGRAM

Evaluated
population:
A total of 72 children (ages 4 to 7) and their foster parents,
from three counties in Oregon, were selected to participate in this study. In
order to be chosen for the study, children had to have been in foster care for a
minimum of three months. Sixty-one percent of the child sample was female and
86 percent was Caucasian.

Approach:
Participants were randomly assigned to either the enhanced support and training
condition (N=31), the increased payment only condition (N=14), or the foster
care as usual condition (N=27). Foster parents in the increased payment only
condition received the additional $70/month payment (to control for effects
resulting from the extra resources afforded by the additional payment); those in
the foster care as usual condition acted as a control group and did not receive
any enhanced support/training, or extra compensation. There were no significant
differences between groups in terms of demographics at baseline. However, the
enhanced services condition had a substantially higher number of parent reports
of child problem behaviors (which was above normal – normal was defined as an
average of five daily problems) than the foster care as usual condition. Foster
mothers in the increased payment only group were also rated significantly better
in terms of discipline practices, than those in the enhanced services group, at
baseline.

To measure the
effectiveness of the program, data were collected on the following: foster
parent reports of child problems; dropout/retention rates; staff impressions of
foster parents’ discipline and social skills, and foster mothers’ levels of
personal strength; parent and caseworker perceptions of weekly training/support
groups; and stability of children in foster care (whether a child left a foster
home for any reason; “successful days” were the number of days a child stayed in
their study foster home). Data collection occurred at baseline, at a 3-month
follow-up for the parent reports of child problem behavior, and were ongoing
over the course of the two-year period for all other measures.

Results:
Over the course of the two-year study, both the enhanced services and increased
payment only conditions had substantially lower foster parent dropout rates than
those in the control group. Children in the enhanced services condition also
had significantly more successful days in care than children in either of the
other two conditions. Foster parents of children in the enhanced services
condition also reported significantly greater drops in the number of child
problem behaviors at the three-month follow-up.

SOURCES FOR MORE
INFORMATION

References:

Chamberlain, P.,
Moreland, S., & Reid, K. (1992). Enhanced services and stipends for foster
parents: Effects on retention rates and outcomes for children. Child Welfare
Journal
, 71(5), 387-401.

KEYWORDS:
Children, Males and Females (Co-ed), Clinic/Provider-Based, Parent or Family
Component, Parent Training/Education, Case Management, Behavior Problems – Other

Program
information last updated 12/21/11

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