Abstract: Parenting Interventions for Biological Parents of Children in Foster Care: A Systematic Review (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

307P Parenting Interventions for Biological Parents of Children in Foster Care: A Systematic Review

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Stacy Dunkerley, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Megan Leopold, MSW, Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Parenting interventions have been shown to reduce conduct problems for children and reduce depression symptoms for parents (Shaw et al., 2009). In child welfare, parenting interventions have been primarily implemented with biological parents at risk of child removal and with foster parents (Akin et al., 2016). Few studies have examined the use of evidence-supported parenting interventions with biological parents of children in foster care, although most reunification case plans require biological parents complete a parenting course (D’Andrade & Chambers, 2012). As such, little is known about the effects of parenting interventions for biological parents on child and family outcomes, such as parent and child functioning and reunification.



The systematic review included a comprehensive literature search of four academic databases, gray literature search, and reference mining. Studies were included if the parenting intervention was provided to biological parents while the child was in foster care and the interventions included: 1) research to support the intervention or 2) a manual or guidelines for the parenting model. The outcome variables of interest were: 1) reunification, 2) parent functioning or parent skill attainment, and 3) child functioning. Both authors participated in the systematic review process to enhance reliability.



Initial systematic search results produced a total of 146 unduplicated publications. The final sample consisted of five publications that met study inclusion criteria. A data extraction form specifically developed for the study assisted in the extraction of sample characteristics, outcome measurements, instrument(s) used, psychometric properties, statistical approaches, and validity and reliability elements. Two studies examined reunification as an outcome variable and both found that overall children who received the intervention reunified at higher rates than children in comparison groups. One study examined child functioning and child behavior as outcomes and found a statistically significant effect in the intervention group on social-emotional functioning and child behavior. Two studies examined parent functioning or skill attainment as an outcome. One found no significant change in parenting skill, but did find intervention effects on caregiver functioning. The second study found significant differences for the intervention group on positive discipline and clear expectations, with biological parents maintaining gains on positive discipline more than foster parents. Psychometric properties were reported on three out of five studies.


Conclusion: This systematic review contributes to the existing foster care literature by evaluating the effectiveness of parenting interventions for biological parents while their children are in foster care. Few studies met inclusion criteria, indicating a need for future research on these interventions with this parent population. Previous research indicates most parents whose children are in foster care are required to participate in a parenting class. Thus, evidence-supported parenting interventions offer a promising strategy for improving parent and child functioning with a goal of supporting safe and timely family reunification.