Mental Health of Foster Children: Do Biological Fathers Matter?

Journal Name
Child Welfare
Journal Volume
Journal Issue
Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Vanschoonlandt, Femke.
Vanderfaeillie, Johan.
Van Holen, Frank.
De Maeyer, Skrällan.
Andries, Caroline.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
The high prevalence of mental health problems in foster children is well-documented (e.g., Armsden, Pecora, Payne, & Szatkiewicz, 2000; Tarren-Sweeney, 2008). From an ecological perspective, it can be expected that several factors in different systems (e.g., foster child, foster family, biological parents, and community) influence foster children's behavioral problems. Mainly, the influence of pre-care experiences, such as a history of maltreatment (Oswald, Heil, & Goldbeck, 2010), and in-care experiences, such as the number of out-of-home placements (Newton, Litrownik, & Landsverk, 2000), is investigated and confirmed. Although the body of research on predictive factors of foster children's behavioral problems is growing (McWey, Acock, & Porter, 2010), the possible influence of one important party is being neglected: biological fathers. This is remarkable given the central role of birth parents in family foster care (O'Donnell, 2001), and even more striking given the growing evidence of the influence of fathers on developmental outcomes of children (Lamb, 2010). This study reports on the involvement of birth fathers during foster care placement of their child and their association with the foster child's well-being. First, we review the literature on the influence of parents on foster children's mental health and discuss the limited research on fathers' involvement. Next, the results of our study are presented and discussed. (Author abstract)

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