Nursing ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-17-2016


This study explored the perceptions foster parents have about their work as caregivers of foster children who are hospitalized and then discharged from the hospital into a foster home. The numbers of children in foster care nationwide has decreased over the past 25 years, yet the proportion of children in foster care who have significant health conditions has increased dramatically (Wang, Edelstein, Waldinger, Lee & Bath, 2011). There has also been significant attrition of qualified foster parents who are able to care for foster children with significant health needs (Pecora, Whittaker, Maluccio, Barth & DePanfilis, 2009; Vig, Chinitz & Shulman, 2005). The experience of working with these children often begins while the child is hospitalized, yet virtually nothing is known about the experience these foster parents go through in caring for children making the transition. Eighteen licensed or formerly licensed foster parents in a northwestern state and who had experience caring for a foster child who had been discharged directly from a hospital into their care were interviewed about their experience. Interpretive Description (Thorne, 2008) was used to conceptualize and frame the data elicited from the participants in the study. Following data analysis, thirteen themes and multiple sub-themes emerged within the three basic research questions. There are several important elements to understand about the perceived experience of foster caregivers of hospitalized children: a) they are often motivated by deeply set beliefs, often but not always spiritual, in the sacredness of children and the importance of all children being cared for; b) as much knowledge about any and all conditions, situations, policies etc…is extremely important to the foster parent in making them feel empowered and competent in caring for these children; c) positive communication with key persons such as caseworkers, health care workers and biological parents is a major factor in whether the foster parent perceives this experience as being a positive experience or a negative experience; d) the ability to advocate for the needs of the child in their care is a crucial element to being a successful foster parent of a child who has been hospitalized.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

College of Nursing

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lobo, Marie

Second Committee Member

Averill, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

TInkle, Melinda

Fourth Committee Member

Gallegos, Cara


Foster Parenting, Hospital Discharge, Foster Care Health



Document Type


Included in

Nursing Commons