Foster and Adoptive Parent Perspectives on Needs and Services: a Mixed Methods Study

  • Erin R. BarnettEmail author
  • Mary K. Jankowski
  • Rebecca L. Butcher
  • Catherine Meister
  • Rebecca R. Parton
  • Robert E. Drake


Caring for children with complex needs severely stresses foster and adoptive parents, but few studies have examined their perspectives on needs and services. To examine parental views, the authors analyzed four focus groups (n = 27 participants) and one state-wide survey (n = 512 respondents, 42% of 1206 contacted) of foster and adoptive parents in one state. Results highlighted inadequate communication between providers and families, cultural and legal barriers, needs for parent training and preparation, the importance of several types of parent supports, and needs for specialized mental health treatment for the children. Surveyed parents identified children’s behavior problems as their top challenge, and over half rated the availability of mental health providers who treat attachment and family as insufficient. The findings suggest specific areas in which state leaders could enhance training and supports for child welfare staff and foster and adoptive parents and improve mental health services for children in foster and adoptive care.


Foster parent Adoptive parent Foster children Mixed methods Mental health services Social services 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.


This project was funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, 90C01115-01.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Behavioral Health 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin R. Barnett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary K. Jankowski
    • 1
  • Rebecca L. Butcher
    • 2
  • Catherine Meister
    • 3
  • Rebecca R. Parton
    • 1
  • Robert E. Drake
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Trauma Interventions Research CenterGeisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterLebanonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Program Design and Evaluation at DartmouthLebanonUSA
  3. 3.New Hampshire Division of Children Youth and FamiliesConcordUSA
  4. 4.The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical PracticeOne Medical Center DriveLebanonUSA

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