Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on Parental Stress: A Study of Foster Parents

J. Jay Miller, Morgan E. Cooley & Brittany P. Mihalec-Adkins - Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal



The overarching purpose of this exploratory study was to understand how foster parents’ parenting-related stress levels have changed over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the role of sociodemographic characteristics in exacerbating risk for increased stress.


Participants were electronically surveyed about their pre- and post-pandemic parenting-related stress, using an adapted version of the parenting stress scale.


Nine-hundred and ninety foster parents (N = 990) participated in the study. Overall, foster parents reported significant increases along three specific domains of stress—namely, parenting stress, lack of control, and parental satisfaction (reverse-scored). Analyses for group differences on the post-only scores indicated that foster parents who are not married, or who report poorer mental health (i.e., “good”, versus “very good” or “excellent”) or financial circumstances (i.e., as indicated by not reliably having more income than expenses) may face increased risk for exacerbated stress during this pandemic.


Findings from this study indicate that parental stress-levels among foster parents have increased since the start of COVID-19. These findings are not only troubling for foster caregivers, but may also have implications for the youth in their care. Ultimately, results from this study indicate the need to better support foster parents, in general, and during public health crises, specifically.