Navigating a Complicated System of Care: Foster Parent Satisfaction with Behavioral and Medical Health Services

Megan J. Hayes, Jennifer M. Geiger, Cynthia Lietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Children and youth in foster care often have increased medical and behavioral needs, as a result of maltreatment experiences. As primary caregivers, foster parents serve a critical role in ensuring their medical and behavioral health needs are met, yet there is little research depicting foster parents’ experiences with such services. This study examined perspectives of 442 foster parents regarding their experiences with children’s behavioral and medical health services, through closed and open-ended survey questions, to provide further insight into how to best meet the needs of children in the foster care system. Findings suggest that foster parents are generally satisfied with medical services. They were particularly pleased when they perceived caseworkers were efficient with paperwork and provided comprehensive information at intake. They appreciated providers who were able to make appointments on short notice and were patient with children with a variety of needs. Foster parents were less satisfied with behavioral health services. They cited concerns about the timeliness of acquiring behavioral health services, lack of individualized services, and how turnover impacted consistency and progress of services. Consistently, foster parents provided examples of their role in advocating for the needs of the children in their care and described the need to be heard, consulted, and included in assessment and treatment. This study offers important implications for service providers and policy makers to review implementation of current practice and policies, and demonstrates the commitment foster parents have to ensuring the health and behavioral health needs of our most vulnerable children are met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-505
Number of pages13
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Foster care
  • Foster parents
  • Medical and behavioral health
  • Satisfaction
  • Services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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