Children with disabilities are over-represented on child welfare caseloads. When placed in out-of-home care, they are less likely to reunify with their birth parents and more likely to experience disruptions in placement and a longer time in care.
Most children involved with child welfare placed outside their family home are cared for by foster parents. Little research has explored the perspectives and experiences of foster parents caring for children with disabilities.
From a randomized list of 954 licensed foster parents residing in a central Canadian city, forty-four were interviewed after being screened to ensure they had fostered a child with a disability in the past year. Each foster parent was asked to describe problems they encountered fostering a child with a disability. Eighty-five unique responses were grouped by interviewees into categories that were then subjected to two statistical analyses.
The seven resulting concepts were consistent with problems elsewhere reported by foster parents, such as dealing with a child’s behavioural challenges or securing and maintaining professional services; however, four unique concerns were highlighted for consideration and further study. Foster parents described variable costs associated with fostering a child with a disability not adequately covered by standardized funding formulas. They noted the importance of community, including social networks and physical neighbourhood factors, and of the caring network supporting children with disabilities. Finally, foster parents who themselves had disabilities expressed particular concerns requiring additional research and support.