Empathy as an Essential Foundation to Successful Foster Parenting

Jennifer M. Geiger, Megan Hayes Piel, Cynthia Lietz, Francie J. Julien-Chinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Foster parents play a crucial role in providing safe and stable homes to maltreated children placed in out-of-home care and in doing so are tasked with many challenges. Understanding how foster parents are able to overcome the challenges inherent to fostering, to continue to foster children long term, and to maintain a healthy level of family functioning provides insight into key retention and recruitment efforts. Twenty foster families, all of whom had fostered over 5 years and rated as healthy functioning on the Family Assessment Device, participated in in-depth interviews to discuss the strengths their families relied on that allowed them to demonstrate resiliency. Empathy emerged as an essential foundation in the resiliency process. Foster families demonstrated empathy in three specific ways. First, was with the children they fostered, second was with the biological families of the children, and third was with the child welfare workers. Foster parents also attributed the empathy their children (fostered, adopted, and biological) demonstrated to the experience of being a foster family. The findings from this study have implications for both the child welfare workforce and foster families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3771-3779
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Empathy
  • Foster care
  • Foster parents
  • Fostering
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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