Special foster families for special needs children

Arlene Gail Goldsmith, Fordham University


This study explores the characteristics of foster parents who provide care for special needs children. The children are physically disabled and/or chronically ill and have been hospitalized well beyond medical necessity. They are known as "boarder children" and their numbers are increasing due to the crack epidemic, the AIDS crisis, and advances in medical technology which have kept premature and critically ill infants alive, often with residual and serious developmental disabilities. The dramatic rise in the number of children who have special needs has exacerbated an already difficult problem for child welfare agencies--the need to recruit foster parents for the growing population of disabled children who cannot return to their biological families and who should not grow up in hospitals. As the need for foster parents rises and recruitment becomes increasingly difficult due to the large numbers of women entering the job market outside of the home, research becomes critical in relation to defining who are the people who will provide care for these children. The principal question addressed in this research is: are the parents who choose to foster special needs children special themselves; and do they possess characteristics which are different from those foster parents who have traditionally filled the role as caretakers of children who require substitute care. Two groups of foster families (special and traditional) are compared on social demographic variables and subsets of predictors in five major areas which include: social factors; psychological components; variable related to personal crises of foster parents; prior experience; and view of foster parent role as professional. A multiple discriminate analysis was performed, with eight variables distinguishing between the two groups: (a) indoor recreational activities; (b) outdoor recreational activities; (c) employment; (d) income; (e) total recent family life changes; (f) pride; (g) reframing stressful events to make them more manageable; and (h) foster parenthood as rewarding. The analysis correctly classified the cases 80% of the time using the model. The findings are discussed as well as the implications for social work practice particularly in relation to foster parent recruitment for disabled and/or chronically ill children.

Subject Area

Social work|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Goldsmith, Arlene Gail, "Special foster families for special needs children" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9403301.