Foster Child Stability: Is Authoritative or Authoritarian parenting better?

Authoritative or Authoritarian?

We had a very successful first virtual meeting on May 19,2021 between prospective foster parents and foster care professionals. Some of the parents had a lot of knowledge about foster parenting and had new questions that sparked spirited discussion. One of the questions was between authoritative and authoritarian parenting.

There is a great article on that explains the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles. We quote a nice table that summarizes the differences:

Source: , accessed May 25, 2021

While the above applies to all kinds of families the question is what is better for foster parenting?

We look at the issue from the start:

  • Question 1: Why does a child need foster care in the first place?
    • Answer 1: Because the biological family is unable to care for the child.
  • Question 2: What is needed most in a foster home?
    • Answer (strictly our take, please feel free to disagree) A sense of stability for the foster child.
  • Question 3: Let’s agree that stability is needed most. So what type of parenting between authoritative and authoritarian works better?
    • Answer 3: Let’s see what academic research has to say to this question.

A fascinating meta-analysis published in 2021 attempts an answer to the authoritative and authoritarian style for foster parents.

The article authors are Sabrina Chodura, Arnold Lohaus, Tabea Symanzik, Nina Heinrichs & Kerstin Konrad and the full text of the article is available here.

They summarised findings from 43 primary studies to identify what foster parent behavior was helpful in foster child development.

Given the surprising nature of their findings, we quote a section from their Discussion section on Parenting Styles.The italics and text color is added.

 Surprisingly, the authoritarian parenting style was also associated with higher placement stability. One could argue that the longer that the children lived in their foster family, this parenting style in foster parents might have been expressed more due to their behavior. Therefore, foster parents may think a more authoritarian style is necessary. On the other hand, authoritarian foster parents may question the continuation of fostering less than parents who exhibit other parenting styles. Furthermore, permissive parenting was—unexpectedly—associated with less externalizing and total problem behavior. An explanation may be that permissive parents do not limit externalizing and total problem behaviors as much as parents with different parenting styles. Therefore, they may report those child behaviors less. By contrast, it also may be possible that the CFC truly do show less problematic behavior when experiencing those parenting styles.

source : page 342,Sabrina Chodura, Arnold Lohaus, Tabea Symanzik, Nina Heinrichs & Kerstin Konrad (2021)

Like all careful researchers the authors do identify this as an under-researched area that needs more study. We concur with the author/s italicized observations. Because it is popularly believed that authoritative parenting is somehow better than authoritarian parenting.

Who is to decide? our dear readers might wonder. Well that is where the developed expertise of foster parenting comes in. Do consult with your social worker and other professionals familiar with your particular situation.


Kinship care or Foster care : Which is better?

Kinship Care or Foster Care –

Kinship care refers to a relative (including grandparents) who takes care of the child with the inability of the parents to do so. Kinship Foster Carers can be paid or unpaid. This varies by the State Government/County depending on policy,funds available, and preference and financial situation of the kin. Foster care is when a non-related,unknown family takes charge of the child and receives a stipend to cover costs. And then there are hidden foster carers, where the parents are theoretically incharge but the hidden foster carers are in practice responsible for the child.

In each of the above scenarios, the carers are kind and caring people and we salute them.

A lot of research has been done by the Social Welfare academic community as to whether kinship care or foster care has better outcomes for the child. As far as we could tell from the academic research, it depends a lot on the cultural and social context of the child.

In multi-ethnic America many communities are close knit and when parents fail relatives and friends are happy to take charge. The child achieves permanency or stability and avoids being shunted from one foster home to another or foster care drift.

Marc Winoker of Colorado State University alongwith Amy Holton and Keri E Batchelder has a nice meta- analysis from 2014 of prior research on the kinship question. We quote and highlight some parts of their results and conclusions:

One‐hundred‐and‐two quasi‐experimental studies, with 666,615 children are included in this review. The ‘Risk of bias’ analysis indicates that the evidence base contains studies with unclear risk for selection bias, performance bias, detection bias, reporting bias, and attrition bias, with the highest risk associated with selection bias and the lowest associated with reporting bias. The outcome data suggest that children in kinship foster care experience fewer behavioural problems (standardised mean difference effect size ‐0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) ‐0.49 to ‐0.17), fewer mental health disorders (odds ratio (OR) 0.51, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.62), better well‐being (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.64), and less placement disruption (OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.69) than do children in non‐kinship foster care. For permanency, there was no difference on reunification rates, although children in non‐kinship foster care were more likely to be adopted (OR 2.52, 95% CI 1.42 to 4.49), while children in kinship foster care were more likely to be in guardianship (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.40). Lastly, children in non‐kinship foster care were more likely to utilise mental health services (OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.35 to 2.37).

winoker,holton,Batchelder (2014)

If you think about it, many cultures have a strong community feeling. Quite simply a child feels “at home” if a member of the specific community steps up.

From the above, its intriguing why foster care has more adoption while kinship care seems to have more guardianship.

Becci A. Aikin of Kansas University in her Ph.D. theses (2010, pages 117-18) makes the point that current policy (as of 2010) thinks of permanency as a hierarchical process viz. reunification, adoption and guardianship. Adoption takes longer and happens more with unrelated foster parents while African Americans are more culturally accepting of guardianship. If quick permanency is the goal, maybe guardianship should be promoted.

The goal of permanency can be seen as providing a stable home and human connection. And this is probably the central question that all types of prospective foster parents need to ask themselves.

The goal for everyone is to do what is best for the child. The judgement call of kinship care vs. foster care is for the social worker on the ground.

In management this is decentralized decision making. Sure, there are laws,rules and guidelines at the Federal,State and County level but because we are dealing with a human situation – its best to let the social worker decide.

About Start Foster Care.

Predictors of success: Therapeutic Foster Parenting

Happy foster parents watching foster daughter winning cup

Therapeutic or Treatment Foster Care deals with the challenge of kids who have support needs that are more than that of traditional foster kids. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway the therapeutic foster child needs a structured home environment that adds to a feeling of predictability and comfort in daily life.

We were delighted to note that one of the most cited scholarly papers on the question of outcomes is:

Redding, Richard E., Carrie Fried, and Preston A. Britner. “Predictors of placement outcomes in treatment foster care: Implications for foster parent selection and service delivery.” Journal of child and family studies 9.4 (2000): 425-447.

It turns out that Preston Britner is a University of Connecticut Professor. It just so happens that started it’s pilot program in Connecticut!

The paper itself is highly readable (download the full paper here) and explains things clearly. While published in 2000, we think many of these findings apply today for foster care outcomes.

We quote the section (pages 437-438) on Foster Parent Recruitment and highlight an observation made back in 2000:

“The recruitment of motivated and skilled foster parents is essential. Careful recruitment of qualified foster parents, followed by the training and support provided to foster parents, contributes to successful placement outcomes. Unfortunately, recruitment may be the biggest barrier to a successful TFC program; many researchers and practitioners (e.g., McIntyre & Keesler, 1986) argue that the demand for additional TFC placements far surpasses the current supply. The problem may not lie in the scarcity of willing and capable families, but rather, in the failure to devote sufficient energy to recruitment activities, to target the appropriate population, and/or to provide sufficient pay to attract parents interested in the professional aspects of treatment parenting (Chamberlin et al., 1992; Dawson, 1989).”

It’s only in the last few years that digital marketing and social media has exploded. Similarly, despite the many challenges of COVID-19, being forced to work,shop and play from home has made everyone technology savvy.

There is opportunity now to improve the parent recruitment process for both traditional and therapeutic foster children.


Become a Foster Parent is a calling

Here is a great news story from Renae Skinner KOAA NBC Southern Colorado. To even enquire about foster parenting needs a lot of courage, a good heart and it’s a calling. You may time to decide as this story suggests:

We at aim to connect prospective foster parents with foster care professionals. We use technology so that the initial process is easy. Prospective parents can get all initial questions answered.

About StartFosterCare

Why StartFosterCare.Org? Our Story.. launch coincides with National Foster Care Month May 2021

We started with some agencies to support their recruiting efforts digitally. Face-to-Face methods continued like open houses at the organization, a table at Community events. Advertising spending continued on offline methods but it was clear that digital marketing was effective both by cost and results.

And then there was the COVID pandemic since March 2020 causing enormous pain and suffering….

Organizations that relied solely on offline recruiting found a steep decline in the opportunity to talk with interested foster parents. The reason was that every physical location was now out of bounds.

There was no dearth of foster parent enquiries for our foster care clients because they were all generated digitally. During the pandemic nobody could leave home and became much more tech savvy.

On the organizational side, foster care training started being offered virtually to accepted parents. Everyone had become comfortable with digital…

There was one thing that perplexed us..

Before the pandemic offline open houses were sparsely attended. If ten people signed up for the open house – maybe 2 or 3 highly committed folks showed up,

During the pandemic, for digital Zoom open houses, despite all digital marketing efforts we found similar numbers. That is a maximum of 30% people actually attending after signing up.

It meant that 70-80% interested foster parents could not make it to the meeting given the numerous challenges everyone was facing.

The idea of was born…

VisitDays a leader in the technology of virtual (and real) community engagement offered to provide their platform at no cost for a year to us. Thank you VisitDays!

We were convinced that if every foster care organization could have their content on StartFosterCare. Org then we could do a digital outreach for parents in the area.

We saw three advantages in launching Start Foster Care:

  1. Interested parents can actually attend open houses: Since the website is on all the time the interested foster care parents can browse nearby organizations that can take them through the foster care process. Taking the step to just enquire about foster parenting is a brave step and some parents tell us that they took a year or more to decide to sign up.
  2. Foster Care Professionals can virtually explain their support and services : With the pandemic foster care professionals are particularly challenged. Examples of these challenges include kids not able to take the bus due to social distancing and both parents need to go to work. In these difficult times what if they could make their initial open house presentations available online? What if prospective parents could chat online right from the profile? What if every interested parent could be followed up? Would this free up more time to serve the kids?
  3. A more organized community of foster carers in a state: Foster caring is an urgent social need and both the foster parent and foster care professionals are doing noble work. StartFosterCare provides a platform and data to create a supportive community of foster carers from Government, Agencies and Foster Parents

We are delighted to launch to coincide with the National Foster Care Month May 2021.

About StartFosterCare.

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