Date of Award

Fall 2006

Project Type


Program or Major

Family Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Elizabeth M Dolan


This study explores the grief experiences, parental views, supports, and barriers of 22 rural low-income mothers with children in foster care. The family ecology perspective framed the research. T-tests were utilized in a quantitative analysis comparing depression and parental support and confidence between mothers with children in placement and children not in placement.

Results indicated that the differences in mean depression scores were statistically significant between the participants and the control group. Depressive symptoms were found to be much more prevalent in mothers with children in placement than mothers with children not in placement.

The differences in mean scores between the participants and the control group for both parental support and parental confidence were not statistically significant, indicating that the mothers' perceptions of her parental confidence and support were not significantly related to whether her children were placed in foster care or not. Grounded theory was used in a qualitative analysis of mothers' interviews over three years. Results indicate that mothers with children in placement rarely expressed their grief. Emotional, financial, relational, institutional, logistical, and parental supports and barriers both contributed to and hindered the mothers' abilities to keep children in their care. The different systems of the family ecology perspective may directly and indirectly influence the mothers' abilities to keep their children in their care and to parent effectively. One must examine the experiences of the mother comprehensively, and not narrow the focus to only one area of her life. Working to support the mother in turn helps the child and the family.