Should I stay or should I go? A mixed methods study examining the factors influencing foster parents' decisions to continue or discontinue providing foster care

Jennifer Mullins Geiger, Megan J. Hayes, Cynthia Lietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


The recent economic recession has resulted in dramatic cuts to child welfare programs and services. Licensed foster homes represent an essential component of the child welfare system as these families provide for the care and safety of children during times when their own families are not able to do so. Despite the important role foster parents serve, little attention has been given to understand what impacts their decision about whether to continue fostering. This is especially important when considering the context of recent economic stressors on families and on the systems on which families rely. The purpose of this study was to understand what factors impact a parent's likelihood of continuing fostering. To accomplish this objective, a mixed methods concurrent triangulation design was conducted by sending an online survey to foster parents in one state located in the southwest. Findings based on this sample of 649 foster parents suggest foster families' intentions to continue fostering are positively impacted by their own intrinsic rewards and motivations, satisfaction with fostering, locus of control, and level of emotional and practical supports. Reduction in reimbursement rates, decreases in the amount of quality services available for foster children and for foster families, difficulty navigating the system, and individual-level family changes were cited as reasons foster parents would consider discontinuing fostering. Open-ended responses offer increased understanding about how these factors are perceived by respondents to impact their ability to continue to provide for our nation's most vulnerable children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1356-1365
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013



  • Foster care
  • Foster parents
  • Intentions
  • Retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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