Abstract: Assessing the Use of Virtual Support Groups for Foster and Adoptive Parents (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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695P Assessing the Use of Virtual Support Groups for Foster and Adoptive Parents

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Aubrey Jones, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Amanda Brown, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
J. Jay Miller, PhD, Dean & Dorothy Miller Research Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Missy Segress, Executive Director, University of Kentucky, KY
Karen Bowman, Program Administrator, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background: Virtual technology platforms have fundamentally changed the way people interact. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially during, there has been a proliferation in the use of virtual platforms to host support groups for a range of populations. Despite the use of these platforms within areas of child welfare, namely post-adoptive services, research in this area has not kept pace. Few works, if any, have examined the impact of virtual support groups on foster/adoptive parenting experiences.

Although foster/adoptive parents receive training, their parenting experiences are not without challenges. In addition to the normal demands of parenting and increased demand associated with parenting foster/adoptive children, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress for foster and adoptive parents as respite care option decreased, schools closed, and parents shifted to remote work or experienced job loss in addition to the threat of a novel virus. Research has shown that stress among foster/adoptive parents is a primary concern and one that may lead to burnout among foster/adoptive parents. Previous studies suggest that parental self-efficacy and sense of competence among foster parents is associated with greater satisfaction and retention in their parenting role and decreased burnout. This study examines the impacts of a virtual platform on parental stress and sense of competence among foster and adoptive parents in virtual support groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The overarching purpose of this study was to investigate change in reported parental stress scores and parenting sense of competency scores following a 10-week virtual video-conferencing platform utilized for a foster/adoptive parent (N=143) support group. Data was collected at the end of a 10-week virtual support group for foster/adoptive parents. The overarching goal of the program was to foster a supportive, empathetic environment for adoptive parents to access pertinent information related to foster/adoptive parenting. To collect data, researchers adapted and used the Parental Stress Scale (Berry & Jones, 1995) and the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978).

H1: Parental stress will decrease from pre to post-test.

H2: Parenting sense of competence will increase from pre to post-test.

Results: To test hypothesis 1, a paired samples t-test was employed to determine whether a statistically significant mean difference between was detected outcome variables of interest. Hypothesis 1: A statistically significant mean increase of -.664 (95% CI, -1.24 to -0.09), t(142) = -2.273 p = .024. Hypothesis 2: results indicated a statistically significant mean decrease for parental competence of -1.907 (95% CI, -2.68 to -1.13), t(139)= -4.866, p=<.001.

Implications: This study uniquely contributes to the literature and is one of the first known studies to examine outcomes associated with virtual support groups for foster/adoptive parents during the covid-19 pandemic. Results inform salient implications for virtual platforms and child-welfare practice. Participants who engage in this presentation will: (a) understand the potential for technology in proffering support groups; (b) understand the wide-array of virtual platforms that can be used for social services; and, (c) understand findings related to this study, and the pragmatic implications associated with these data.