Foster Parents’ Nutritional Strategies and Children’s Well-Being

Jesse J. Helton, Jill C. Schreiber, Barbara H. Fiese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among their many responsibilities, foster parents are tasked with providing healthy food and proper nutrition to children with a variety of physical, psychological, and emotional needs. Using the lens of symbolic interactionism, this exploratory mixed methods study examined how foster parents attend to the nutritional needs of abused and neglected children. Methods used included both quantitative surveys and qualitative follow-up interviews. Surveys were completed by 23 foster parents in a large, Midwest metropolitan area. Parents reported they provided their children balanced meals, although one-third of households reported instances of food insecurity. During qualitative interviews, foster parents (N = 9) described how children arrived at their home with a variety of unhealthy eating habits, some severe in nature. Parents discussed strategies used to modify and improve eating patterns, including offering healthy food choices, having children plan meals, and gathering as a family for daily dinners. In general, parents understood the link between unhealthy eating and past childhood trauma, but also reported being unprepared for more serious eating problems like hoarding. Findings indicate that foster parents need food assistance to increase food security as well as training in assessing and responding a variety of unhealthy child eating behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Child wellbeing
  • Foster care
  • Mixed-methods
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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