Case Manager Communication Patterns & Foster Parent Satisfaction
More than 415,000 children reside in foster care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014). Despite the high number of children who need homes, only 20% of the entire pool of foster parents care for 60-80% of foster children, and 47%-62% of foster parents quit within one year of receiving placements in their home (Gibbs & Wildfire, 2007). Research has demonstrated that a lack of appropriate foster homes is linked to placement instability and adverse effects on children’s overall health and well-being (CWLA, 2007). Thus, it is imperative to improve foster parent retention in order to enhance the well-being of children living in foster care. Foster parent retention is increased by providing quality training and cultivating positive relationships between case managers and foster parents (Chamberlain, Moreland, & Reid, 1992). However, very little research has examined (a) how to best facilitate a healthier professional relationship between case managers and foster families, and (b) how case managers might impact foster parent retention. The current study examined foster parents’ and case workers’ perspectives on this crucial relationship. To better understand how to improve the relationship satisfaction between case managers and foster parents’ reflections of the interactions between case managers and foster parents were obtained via in-depth, qualitative interviews to identify characteristics of the relationship that are most valuable to foster parents. Interviews were then coded and integrated into six themes representing the importance of quality, timely communication in order to enhance relationship satisfaction. Implications for case managers are also discussed.