Recent Publications


Conceptualizing effective foster parent mentor programs: A participatory planning process

Children and Youth Services Review

Jay Miller, Kalea Benner, Natalie Pope, Tamikia Dumas, Larry J. Damron, Melissa Segress, Melissa Slone, Shawndaya Thrasher, Chunling Niu (2017).

Mentor programs have been recognized as an integral tool in the child welfare services array. However, there are few conceptual frameworks for planning and developing mentor programs for a key constituency group: foster parents. This study employed Concept Mapping (CM) with a convenience sample of 59 foster parents in one southeastern state. CM is a participatory, mixed-method research approach that utilizes non-metric multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analyses to analyze qualitative data. As a result, pictorial representations of the data are generated. Results yielded seven (7) distinct clusters: Ongoing Supports, Matching Practices, and Program Evaluation, among others. Participants viewed the Recruitment cluster as most pertinent and most important for mentor programs. Contrariwise, Program Evaluation and Matching clusters were viewed as least feasible and least important, respectively. After a review of pertinent literature, this paper explicates CM methodology as applied to the current study, reports results, and discusses lessons learned as they apply to child welfare research and practice.


Cultivating resilience in new foster parents through mentoring: A dyadic analysis

Children and Youth Services Review

Natalie D. Pope, J. Jay Miller, Kalea Benner (2020).

Despite the use of mentor programs within child welfare, few studies have examined relational issues between matched pairs of mentors/mentees. This qualitative study uses interpretive description and adapted dyadic analysis to explore the challenges faced by new foster parents and how foster parent mentors council them through these challenges. Using in depth interviewing, primary data were collected from mentor/ mentee dyads (N = 22). Emergent themes were permitting grief, taking breaks, setting boundaries, and attending to the needs of the family. This study contributes to extant knowledge by identifying ways in which foster parent mentoring can help new foster parents remain engaged, promote placement stability, and support competency.


Peer support for new foster parents: A case study of the Kentucky Foster Parent Mentoring Program

Children and Youth Services Review

Natalie D. Pope, Stephanie Ratliff, Shannon Moody, Kalea Benner, Justin “Jay” Miller (2022).

Mentoring of new foster parents aids in retention which is critical to reducing transitions for foster youth. Despite adaptable models for foster parent mentoring programs, and the documented efficacy in increasing retention and improving engagement, mentoring programs are not universal. A case study design was used to explore the structure and role of communication to provide a foundation for implementing a foster parent mentoring program. Using program documents and interview data from mentors and mentees (n = 22) and program coordinators (n = 2), we examined how this foster parent mentoring program actually functioned in terms of contact and communication between mentors and mentees. Using media richness theory, findings include the juxtaposition of synchronous and asynchronous communication and the need for both routine and flexible contact.