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Finding a routine that works: A mixed methods study of foster parents

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Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Although it is well established that daily routines are important for family well‐being, very little research has been done on how foster parents establish and integrate new foster children into family routines. We used a mixed‐methods, cross‐sectional design, focused on qualitative results to explore how foster parents utilize routines. Twenty‐three foster parents were recruited from a private child welfare agency in a large city in the United States. Surveys were administered to obtain demographic information, overall home atmosphere, and the importance and prevalence of different routines, including mealtimes and sleep schedules. Nine foster parents received a semistructured interview with open‐ended questions. Foster parents reported that routines such as bedtimes, mealtimes, chores, and homework were essential to family well‐being. Because both parents and children had to adjust to living together in an intimate family environment, it was important to establish routines quickly. Foster parents modified routines depending on their child's needs. Along with typical family routines, foster parents reported additional tasks, such as visits with biological parents, meetings with caseworkers, and trainings that affected their family schedule. Results imply that training foster care workers and foster parents about routines can engender stability and emotional belonging for children.