Academic journal article Social Work Research

The Available Time Scale: Measuring Foster Parents' Available Time to Foster

Academic journal article Social Work Research

The Available Time Scale: Measuring Foster Parents' Available Time to Foster

Article excerpt

This article presents a new measure of available time specific to fostering, the Available Time Scale (ATS). It was tested with a national sample of 304 foster mothers and is designed to measure the amount of time foster parents are able to devote to fostering activities. The ATS has excellent reliability, and good support exists for its validity. The ATS was associated with number of years fostered, number of children fostered, and intention to continue fostering. Furthermore, it was related to desirable parenting behaviors for the general well-being and development of children in foster care; and children in foster care's behavioral, emotional, and cultural needs.

KEY WORDS: available time; foster families; foster parents; retention; utilization

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Effective, quality foster parenting is a crucial and time-intensive undertaking. It takes time to address the myriad of emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs of foster children; to be an active member of a foster care team; and to work with multidisciptinary service providers (Buehler, Rhodes, Orme, & Cuddeback, 2006). Reliable and valid assessment of foster parents' views about the time they have for various foster parent activities provides valuable information that agencies can use to individualize planning with foster parents. Furthermore, specific strengths and concerns revealed by such assessment have important implications for understanding foster parent success. Therefore, an evaluation of foster parents' time for fostering should be an integral part of the assessment process.

TIME FOR PARENTING

On average, mothers spend 50.2 hours per week and fathers spend 33.4 hours per week with their children (Milkie, Mattingly, Nomaguchi, Bianchi, & Robinson, 2004). Meta-analyses of parental time involvement have found that the time parents spend with children positively correlates with better academic outcomes and with improved behavioral and psychological outcomes in areas such as school engagement, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, perceived competence, perceived control, and self-regulation (Gonzalez-DeHass, Willems, & Holbein, 2005; Jeynes, 2005). The benefits of parental involvement extend to children of any age with emotional and behavioral problems. Parents who participate in parent-child interventions or group-based parenting programs report significant improvement in their children's emotional well-being (Barlow, Parson, & Stewart-Brown, 2005; Barlow & Stewart-Brown, 2000; Mendlowitz et al., 1999).

TIME FOR FOSTER PARENTING

In addition to the time involved in parenting in general, foster parenting requires much additional time. There are no studies of the time spent in specific tasks, but foster parents' time spent in activities important to foster care service delivery is evident from studies citing the prevalence of children's needs, reports of foster parent activities, and studies citing percentages of foster parents involved in service activities.

There is considerable documentation that children living in out-of-home care have significantly more health, mental health, behavioral, and developmental needs than children in the general population (Courtney et al., 2005; Hansen, Mawjee, Barton, Metcalf, & Joye, 2004; Kortenkamp & Ehrle, 2002; Pecora et al., 2006). Foster children of color are at even higher risk of health and mental health problems than are white foster children (Roberts, 2002; Stehno, 1990). Foster parents spend time scheduling appointments with medical and mental health providers; taking children to those appointments; and keeping track of medical, dental, and school records (Barbell & Freundlich, 2001; Buehler, Rhodes, et al., 2006).

Child welfare agencies increasingly rely on foster parents to be therapeutic change agents for children (Leslie et al., 2005) and to assume service activities as workers spend less time on direct care (Unrau & Wells, 2005). …

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