• March/April 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 2

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Researchers Study Early Intervention for Preschool Foster Children

Foster children under age 5 who have been abused are at high risk of developing developmental, behavioral, emotional, and medical problems, and placements of preschool children often disrupt. How can professionals help ensure positive results for this portion of the foster care population?

Researchers in Oregon report that an approach that engages foster parents as "therapeutic agents" for their young charges shows promise.

Researchers with the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene studied an Early Intervention Foster Care (EIFC) program. A report of their research, published in the November 2000 Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (http://www.jaacap.com), explains that the EIFC program trains foster parents to provide therapeutic intervention with preschool foster children who have been maltreated.

The EIFC program includes:

  • Intensive foster parent preservice training
  • Post-placement foster parent support and supervision through daily telephone contacts and weekly home visits by a foster parent consultant, a weekly support group meeting, and 24-hour on-call crisis intervention
  • Services for children from a behavior specialist in both the preschool/day-care and home-based settings and a weekly playgroup program
  • Parenting skills training for biological parents or alternative long-term placement resource (e.g. an adoptive family, a relative of the child, or a long-term foster home)

Researchers collected data from three groups: 10 preschoolers in EIFC foster homes, 10 preschoolers in regular foster care homes, and a community comparison group of 10 non-maltreated children living with their biological families. Researchers assessed the children 2 to 3 weeks after placement in a new foster home and again 12 weeks later. Questionnaires were used to measure parenting strategies, parent stress related to the child's behavior, and child behavior problems. Reseachers measured chemical levels in the children's saliva to evaluate stress.

The results show that EIFC foster parents adopted and maintained positive parenting strategies similar to those of the community comparison group, while the regular foster care parents did not. Positive parenting strategies included consistent discipline, positive reinforcement, and close supervision and monitoring. Children and parents in EIFC homes exhibited less stress than their counterparts in regular foster homes. Additionally, EIFC children had fewer behavior problems.

Researchers write in the article that despite the limitations of the study, such as lack of random subject assignment and small sample size, they hope the findings can be used as a "first step" in developing interventions that reduce risks for maltreated preschool children.

For more information about this study, contact:

Philip Fisher, Ph.D.
Oregon Social Learning Center
160 E. 4th Ave.
Eugene, OR 97401-2426
Phone: 541-485-2711
Fax: 541-485-7087
Email: ilf@oslc.org
Website: http://www.oslc.org

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