Abstract: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience Among Foster Parents (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

13P Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience Among Foster Parents

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Bethany Womack, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN
Morgan Cooley, PhD, Asst Professor, Florida Atlantic University, FL
Jacqueline Rush, MSW, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN
Kristie Slinskey, MSW, Florida Atlantic University, FL
Background: Little is known about foster parents’ experiences prior to fostering, specifically whether they have a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Approximately 70% of adults in the United States have experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime. People who have experienced ACEs are more likely to have multiple negative health outcomes later in life. Youth of Hispanic/Latino or Black/African American heritage are more likely than white youth to experience ACEs, and children from low-income families are also more vulnerable to ACEs. ACEs have also been found to impact parenting.

The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of ACEs among a sample of foster parents and explore multiple relationships between ACEs, foster parents’ resilience, and other indicators of foster parent function and well-being (i.e., parent stress, foster parent satisfaction, challenges associated with fostering, intent to continue fostering). It is not the intention of the authors to imply that ACEs are insurmountable as many people are resilient and overcome adversity, nor do the authors want this type of information be used to prohibit people from fostering in the future. However, foster parents with ACEs may need additional resources and support.


Methods: This cross-sectional, quantitative study included 150 foster parents who were currently fostering from across the United States. Participants were recruited via a foster parent Facebook group over approximately three months and completed an online survey. Participants in this sample were primarily female (n = 114), white (n = 103), married (n = 87), and provided traditional foster care (n = 50) or long-term foster care (n = 41). Descriptive statistics and regression analysis were utilized to assess the relationships among variables in this study.


Results: It was identified that 68% of foster parents in this sample experienced one ACE or more. The most common ACEs reported were separation/divorce or having a household member who was an alcoholic or drug user. Results indicated that there were no relationships between ACEs and foster parent outcomes, except that foster parents with one ACE or more reported more challenges with the foster care system. Parental resilience was associated with satisfaction and intent to continue fostering.


Implications: The results of this study support the idea that experiences of childhood trauma may have some influence on foster parents but, based on correlational results, do not appear to impede function as a foster parent. ACEs were only associated with more perceived challenges associated with fostering. Future research should examine whether ACEs are associated with other aspects of parenting that have been explored in previous studies (e.g., parental competence). It would also be helpful to examine open-ended reports of what it is like to parent with ACEs. This study found that resilience was associated with foster parents’ satisfaction. Whether or not they have experienced ACEs, foster parents may also benefit from training to increase their ability to cope with stress (i.e., bolstering their resilience) through preservice or in-service training.