Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Kathleen A. Gathercoal, PhD

Second Advisor

Nancy Thurston, PsyD

Third Advisor

Jacqueline Head, PsyD


Recent research notes that foster parents, particularly in Oregon, are difficult to retain past a period of eight months. Further, the average stay in the foster care system for a child in Oregon is fourteen months, necessitating an average of two moves during that time for the majority of foster children. Despite this concern, there remains a limited body of literature addressing the problem of increasing foster parents' tenure. The literature that is available notes that the more frequently a child has to move foster homes the greater the likelihood that they will develop mental illnesses such as PTSD. In general the literature about the foster family system tends to focus on the problems that prevent foster parents from continuing to foster, instead of the factors that might support them and help them continue to foster children. This study sought to discover reasons that long-term foster parents offer to explain why they continue to foster children for longer than the state average of 8 months. The study assumes a positive psychological approach. Twelve foster parents were asked to respond to the question "What motivates you to continue fostering children?" The majority of these participants were Caucasian and female, with a minority representation of Hispanics and Pacific islanders. These twelve long-term foster parents (all had over two years of experience) described why they have continued to foster children. These statements were then sorted into categories by four groups of two participants and four participants who worked alone, resulting in eight sorts ofrank-ordered categories and statements within those categories. Through quantitative data analyses, six major themes were identified which motivate these foster parents to continue fostering. The identified themes were commitment to foster children, support systems, agency specific support, personal calling, personal characteristics, and respite care. These themes are discussed in light of the possibility of developing a survey to provide a broader understanding of the importance of these themes. Financial support was not an identified theme among participants, but is discussed for the lack of endorsement. Further, the application of these results to current recruitment and retention efforts as well as to current policy and practice are discussed.