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Keywords:

  • child welfare;
  • foster care (family);
  • mental health;
  • mental health (parental)

Abstract

This study examined a path model that postulated intergenerational relationships between biological parent psychosocial functioning and foster care alumni mental health, economic status and social support; and from these to the likelihood of children of foster care alumni being placed in foster care. The sample included 742 adults who spent time in foster care as children with a private foster care agency and who reported having at least one biological child. A full pathway was found between poorer father's functioning to greater alumni depression, which was in turn associated with negative social support, and then a greater likelihood of child out-of-home placement. Other parent to alumni paths were that poorer father functioning was associated with alumni anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and poorer mother's mental health was associated with PTSD; however, anxiety and PTSD were not implicated as precursors of foster care placement of the child. Findings support the need for increased practice and policy support to address the mental health needs of parents of children in or at risk of foster care, as well as the children themselves, as family history may have a lasting influence on quality of life, even when children are raised apart from biological parents.