Student Author(s)

Carlie McNiff, Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Elizabeth Sharda, Social Work

Document Type


Event Date



Foster parents provide crucial care to hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S., and with their role comes a variety of challenges. They face a great amount of stress which is why the turnover rate is high, and there is a critical need for more foster parents. Uncertainty is a large component of the foster care system, and the COVID-19 pandemic heightened this. It is unknown how stress that foster parents have experienced during this time was affected, and this study seeks to explore that. Additionally, this study focuses on types and sources of social support of foster parents within the pandemic. This qualitative study utilized semi-structured interviews in order to collect firsthand experiences of stress and support during the COVID-19 pandemic from licensed foster parents in the state of Michigan (N=16). Preliminary results show that due to COVID-19, foster families’ stressors increased, and their supports were strained. A common theme was difficulty with aspects of life turning virtual or completely stopping, such as biological parent visits, school, and child-related services. Another common theme was the benefits of foster families experiencing a smaller world and the bonding time it provides. This study contributes to existing literature by filling gaps regarding COVID-19 in general since knowledge of life in the pandemic is new. More specifically, the use of interviews allows for the voices of foster parents to be heard. Findings from the study have multiple implications for those who interact with the foster care system, such as more support resources for returning to or finding services in a pandemic and the need for therapy after such a traumatic time.


This research was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Faculty Development Fund.