“Fostering” Effective Foster Parent Training Programs : Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Adaptations for the Child Welfare Setting

Robin C. Han1, *, Christopher K. Owen1, Corey C. Lieneman1, Cheryl B. McNeil1
1 Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, United States

© 2020 Han et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, 53 Campus Drive, Morgantown, WV 26506, United States; E-mail:,


Foster parents face considerable challenges in caring for children in the child welfare system, many of whom have significant behavioral difficulties [1]. Foster parents often lack the training and support needed to manage these externalizing behaviors, which contribute to parenting stress and are highly predictive of placement breakdowns [2, 3]. Although child welfare agencies provide foster parents with pre-service training experiences, they often lack the capacity and financial resources to implement gold standard, evidence-based interventions that address child behavior difficulties. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) has been well-established as an empirically supported treatment for disruptive behavior, yet standard delivery of PCIT to children in the foster care system is often impractical due to time, financial, childcare, and personnel constraints. Adaptations of PCIT for the foster care setting may remove some of these barriers to treatment. These adaptations have typically retained the parent-coaching principles inherent to PCIT but replaced the traditional 12- to 20-week format with a shorter, less intensive treatment regimen in order to maintain feasibility within the child welfare context. Preliminary findings from studies using abbreviated formats of PCIT suggest effectiveness of such adaptations in reducing externalizing behavior in foster children and maintaining behavioral improvements several months after the end of the treatment.

Keywords: Foster parent training, Foster children, PCIT, Child welfare, Externalizing behavior, Child behavior difficulties.