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Professor Shdaimah and PhD Student Alexander Published in Children and Youth Services Review

Professor Corey Shdaimah, PhD and second-year PhD student Ivana Alexander are co-authors of new research published in Children and Youth Services Review.

ABSTRACT: Foster parents play a critical role as adults responsible for the wellbeing of children who find themselves in care of the state. However, foster parent perspectives are often absent from policymaking and in court proceedings. The literature suggests that there are several barriers to foster parent engagement, including difficulties navigating a complex and often disorganized system. This exploratory focus group study examines foster parent perspectives on what facilitates and impedes their engagement in child welfare court processes. Findings from six focus groups held in diverse areas of Maryland with a total of 57 participants indicate that foster parents are often unsure of when and how to participate in the wake of scheduling and notification difficulties, and some sensed that their presence and participation may be unwelcome. Courthouse and courtroom environments add to their own and their foster children's stress and confusion. Others provided examples of interactions with child welfare personnel and judges that put them at ease and facilitated their participation. We recommend of logistical and environmental modifications to enhance foster parent engagement, including flexible scheduling and the creation of child-friendly waiting spaces. We also recommend policy changes to enhance input from foster parents regarding their experiences with the courts.

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