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The available time scale: measuring foster parents' available time to foster.

This article presents a new measure of available time specific to fostering, the Available Time Scale (ATS). It was tested with a national sample of 304 foster mothers and is designed to measure the amount of time foster parents are able to devote to fostering activities. The ATS has excellent reliability, and good support exists for its validity. The ATS was associated with number of years fostered, number of children fostered, and intention to continue fostering. Furthermore, it was related to desirable parenting behaviors for the general well-being and development of children in foster care; and children in foster care's behavioral, emotional, and cultural needs.

KEY WORDS: available time; foster families; foster parents; retention; utilization

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Effective, quality foster parenting is a crucial and time-intensive undertaking. It takes time to address the myriad of emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs of foster children; to be an active member of a foster care team; and to work with multidisciptinary service providers (Buehler, Rhodes, Orme, & Cuddeback, 2006). Reliable and valid assessment of foster parents' views about the time they have for various foster parent activities provides valuable information that agencies can use to individualize planning with foster parents. Furthermore, specific strengths and concerns revealed by such assessment have important implications for understanding foster parent success. Therefore, an evaluation of foster parents' time for fostering should be an integral part of the assessment process.

TIME FOR PARENTING

On average, mothers spend 50.2 hours per week and fathers spend 33.4 hours per week with their children (Milkie, Mattingly, Nomaguchi, Bianchi, & Robinson, 2004). Meta-analyses of parental time involvement have found that the time parents spend with children positively correlates with better academic outcomes and with improved behavioral and psychological outcomes in areas such as school engagement, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, perceived competence, perceived control, and self-regulation (Gonzalez-DeHass, Willems, & Holbein, 2005; Jeynes, 2005). The benefits of parental involvement extend to children of any age with emotional and behavioral problems. Parents who participate in parent-child interventions or group-based parenting programs report significant improvement in their children's emotional well-being (Barlow, Parson, & Stewart-Brown, 2005; Barlow & Stewart-Brown, 2000; Mendlowitz et al., 1999).

TIME FOR FOSTER PARENTING

In addition to the time involved in parenting in general, foster parenting requires much additional time. There are no studies of the time spent in specific tasks, but foster parents' time spent in activities important to foster care service delivery is evident from studies citing the prevalence of children's needs, reports of foster parent activities, and studies citing percentages of foster parents involved in service activities.

There is considerable documentation that children living in out-of-home care have significantly more health, mental health, behavioral, and developmental needs than children in the general population (Courtney et al., 2005; Hansen, Mawjee, Barton, Metcalf, & Joye, 2004; Kortenkamp & Ehrle, 2002; Pecora et al., 2006). Foster children of color are at even higher risk of health and mental health problems than are white foster children (Roberts, 2002; Stehno, 1990). Foster parents spend time scheduling appointments with medical and mental health providers; taking children to those appointments; and keeping track of medical, dental, and school records (Barbell & Freundlich, 2001; Buehler, Rhodes, et al., 2006).

Child welfare agencies increasingly rely on foster parents to be therapeutic change agents for children (Leslie et al., 2005) and to assume service activities as workers spend less time on direct care (Unrau & Wells, 2005). Moreover, foster children also are at greater risk of being placed in special education programs (Downs, Moore, McFadden, Michaud, & Costin, 2003; McMillen et al., 2005), exhibiting maladaptive school behaviors, and having school-related deficits (Pecora et al., 2006) than are children in general.They tend to perform below grade level and present higher risks for grade retention, suspension, and school dropout (Trout, Hagaman, Casey, Reid, & Epstein, 2008). Blome (1997) found that foster parents spent less time monitoring their foster children's homework than did a group of comparison parents. Similarly, teachers rated 41% of foster children's caregivers as less than moderately involved in the children's schoolwork (Dubowitz & Sawyer, 1994).

Reunification with parents or another relative is the goal for 53% of children in care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], Administration for Children and Families, 2008). Foster parents support children's contacts with parents and siblings, take children to visits, and report to workers on children's reactions after contacts (Hess, 2003; Warsh, Pine, & Maluccio, 1996).The literature suggests that the time foster parents spend helping children save keepsakes gives foster children a sense of continuity during transition and contributes to placement adjustment (Aust, 1981; Berman, 1986; Rycus & Hughes, 1998). In one study on foster parent training (Sanchirico & Jablonka, 2000), 77% of foster parents reported taking children to visits, 63% encouraged phone calls, and 51% supervised children's visits with birth family members.

Successful foster parenting requires that foster parents participate in case planning, assess and share information about children's progress toward goals, and meet with workers and other professionals to review progress (Child Welfare League of America, 1995). More frequent worker contacts are associated with placement stability (Walsh &Walsh, 1990). Foster parents' not having input regarding case decisions and not being taken seriously can result in placement breakdown (Brown & Bednar, 2006). Almost a third of foster parents in Sanchirico, Lau, Jablonka, and Russell's (1998) study of foster parent training indicated that they took part in case planning activities. Developing trusting relationships with workers that facilitate sharing of information takes time.

Foster parents commit time to learn about foster care and the unique needs of children in care. All states call for foster parents to complete preservice and in-service training, though time requirements vary considerably. Foster parents spend between six and 45 hours in preservice training as a prerequisite for licensure (National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning [NRCFPPC], 2005). They attend between four and 20 hours of in-service training during each licensing cycle (NRCFPPC, 2008).

Some foster parents make time to share their dedication and expertise through leadership roles with the agency (Ryan, 1987). Using foster parents to recruit potential applicants, to train new foster parents, and to mentor less experienced foster parents represents promising practices for developing an experienced pool of foster families (Noble & Euster, 1981; HHS, Office of the Inspector General, 2002). Foster parents' participation in local, state, and national foster parent associations provides grassroots advocacy for children as well as opportunities for information and training (Pasztor & McFadden, 2006). Only the most involved foster parents spend time in these activities. For example, 1% of U.S. foster parents belong to the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) (Pasztor & McFadden, 2006). Agencies encourage foster parents to take advantage of leadership opportunities while recognizing the difficulty of meeting the time commitments for these activities.

Providing foster care requires a significant time commitment, and insufficient time for fostering can have detrimental effects on foster parents and on foster parent families. Cole and Eamon (2007a) found that insufficient time to carry out responsibilities was related to higher levels of depression in foster mothers. The time demands of fostering can result in strain on foster parents' marital relationships (Dando & Minty, 1987; Seaberg & Harrigan, 1999). Foster parents may become so busy with foster children that they lose sight of their own children (Hojer, 2007; Twigg, 1994).

A number of factors may affect both actual time available and perceptions of available time, and both are important. Foster parents who see themselves as having more time for foster parent tasks may have personal and family characteristics that support that availability of time. Having greater levels of dedication to providing family placements also may influence how foster parents allocate time to the role. Competency in understanding children's developmental and cultural needs may contribute to the perception of having time. Individuals with more capacity to address behavioral concerns may be more prepared to give time. Help from family, friends, and a network of professionals in caring for a foster child may contribute to foster parents' perceptions regarding time spent fostering. Having healthy family interaction patterns and coping strategies may decrease competing demands and result in more time for fostering. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect that the number of children in a foster parent's care is at least partially determined by his or her perception of time available for foster parent activities (Gibbs & Wildfire, 2007) and that those with more time stay in fostering long enough to develop a sense of being successful foster parents (Brown & Campbell, 2007; Cole & Eamon, 2007b).

MEASURING AVAILABLE TIME TO FOSTER

Foster parenting demands a special level of commitment to make time available to assess children's strengths and problem areas and to provide corrective developmental experiences within the context of safe, secure parental relationships. The foster care literature does not specifically address how available time influences foster parents' attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, we developed a new measure to assess how foster parents anticipate that they will allocate time for parenting and team-related responsibilities. A reliable, valid, and practical measure of available time to foster would be useful for child welfare practice and research. This article reports results concerning the psychometric properties of the Available Time Scale (ATS), a new, standardized, self-report scale designed to measure the amount of time foster parents are able to devote to fostering.

METHOD

Design and Sample

This study was part of a larger project designed to study foster family characteristics. Using a cross-sectional design, we recruited a convenience sample of foster mothers from a list of state and local foster parent associations obtained from the NFPA Web site (www.nfpainc.org). Recruitment information packets were sent to state and local foster parent associations by mail and e-mail. Recruitment packets included information about the study and tools for distributing information to foster parents. These packets included cover letters describing the study, endorsement letters from the president of the NFPA, flyers about the study that could be reproduced and distributed to foster mothers, and information about the study that could be placed in association newsletters or on their Web sites. Associations were asked to distribute flyers to members, place an announcement in newsletters, and place an announcement on their state association Web sites and message boards.

All advertisements included an e-mail address and a toll-free project telephone number. Foster mothers were asked to use one of these means to contact us to participate. Those willing to participate provided their names, mailing addresses, and (if available) e-mail addresses. Additional information about the study was sent on request. Foster mothers who chose to participate received a $50 gift certificate upon completion of the study measures.

Initially, recruitment packets were mailed only to state foster parent associations. About three months into the project, recruitment materials were sent again to state foster parent associations in states from which we had not received any completed questionnaires. Also at this time, recruitment materials were sent to local foster parent associations from those states.

A total of 304 foster mothers completed the survey. These mothers lived in 35 different states; respondents per state ranged from one to 46. Most were married, European American, and had high school educations or some college (see Table 1). About one-third were employed full time, and about one-third were not employed outside the home. The mean age was 44.31 years (SD = 9.95).The median yearly family income was approximately $50,000. On average, there were three children in the home (M = 3.34, SD = 1.95), two of whom were birth or adopted children (M = 1.60, SD = 1.54) and one of whom was younger than six years of age (M = 1.03, SD = 1.20).

Most homes were licensed as foster family homes (92%). The licensing statuses of the remaining 24 homes were as follows: specialized homes (19), emergency care homes (4), and relative foster home (1). In addition, 65 homes (21.4%) provided kinship care.

Measures

Participants completed two questionnaires: the Casey Foster Applicant Inventory-Applicant (CFAI-A) (Buehler, Orme, Cuddeback, Le Prohn, & Cox, 2006; Orme, Cuddeback, Buehler, Cox, & Le Prohn, 2006) and the Casey Home Assessment Protocol--Self-Report (CHAP-SR) (Orme, Cox, et al., 2006; Rhodes, Cox, Orme, Coakley, et al., 2006). Each contains multiple scales and other questions. The ATS is part of the CHAP-SR.

CFAI-A Questionnaire. The CFAI-A questionnaire contains a variety of scales, demographic questions, and questions about availability and utilization of foster family placement. This instrument is described in detail in Orme, Cuddeback, et al. (2006). Selected scales and questions were conceptualized as correlates of available time and were used to test the validity of the ATS.

The CFAI-A (Orme, Cuddeback, Buehler, Cox, & Le Prohn, 2007) is a new scale with three core subscales and three additional subgroup subscales, and each subscale has a potential range of values of 0 through 100. Higher core subscale scores indicate greater potential to promote foster child development (30 items, [alpha] = .90), foster challenging children (13 items, [alpha] = .85), and manage challenging relationships with foster care workers and agencies (nine items, [alpha] = .73). Good preliminary support exists for the construct validity of all three subscales (for example, each is correlated in the expected direction with cultural competence, hardiness, some aspects of parenting, and intention to continue fostering, and they are not correlated with demographic characteristics) (Orme et al., 2007).

Mothers reported their age, current employment status, highest degree or level of school completed, marital status, race--ethnic background, and total gross annual family income. They also reported whether their licenses were for foster family, emergency care, specialized foster family, relative foster, group home, or other.

Greater availability and utilization should follow from more available time to provide foster care, and we used indicators of the availability and utilization of foster family placements as outcomes in testing the construct validity of the ATS. Concerning availability, we included number of years fostered. We also asked respondents if they intended to continue to foster for the next six months, one year, and three years. Concerning utilization, we asked for the number of foster children cared for since licensure, the number of foster children removed at foster parent request, and the number of foster children currently in the home.

CHAP-SR Questionnaire. The CHAP-SR questionnaire contains a variety of self-report scales, including the ATS (Orme, Cox, et al., 2006; Rhodes, Cox, Orme, Coakley, et al., 2006). The CHAP-SR was developed as part of a larger project to measure important and relatively unique aspects of foster parenting, and the ATS measures one of those aspects. The CHAP-SR also contains scales that measure aspects of parenting and individual and family functioning that are not necessarily unique to foster parenting.

Selected constructs measured by scales from the CHAP-SR were conceptualized as correlates of available time and were used to examine the construct validity of the ATS. These hypothesized relationships were based on our preliminary conceptualization of available time to foster and its hypothesized antecedents and outcomes and on the related literature reviewed earlier.

ATS. The ATS is a new 20-item, standardized self-report scale designed to measure the amount of time foster parents are able to devote to fostering activities. The items were developed on the basis of responsibilities and activities specific to foster parenting identified through a review of foster parent literature, foster family training curriculums, and agency practices. Foster care professionals reviewed items for clarity, comprehensiveness, sensitivity, and practice relevance. Experienced foster parents and foster care workers from public and private agencies provided feedback in small focus groups on the relevance of items regarding how agencies ask foster parents to help (see the Appendix for the final version of the ATS). The measure contains items about diverse areas, including promoting psychosocial development, accessing resources, keeping records, promoting birth family relationships, working as a team member, growing as a foster parent, and recruiting and training other foster parents. Each item is rated as follows: 1 = never, 2 = once in a while, 3 = sometimes, 4 = quite often, and 5 = very often.

Family Functioning Style Scale. The Family Functioning Style Scale is an existing 26-item scale on which higher scores indicate stronger perceptions of family strengths in terms of interactional patterns, family values, coping strategies, family commitment, and resource mobilization. This scale has demonstrated excellent internal consistency reliability ([alpha] = .92) and construct validity (for example, it is correlated in the expected direction with family hardiness, family-related health problems, and personal well-being) (Dunst, Trivette, & Deal, 1988; Trivette, Dunst, Deal, Hamer, & Propst, 1990).

Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale. This is a new 18-item scale on which higher scores indicate greater professional commitment, moral-ethical consciousness, receptivity, and responsiveness to foster children. Items were modified from the Human Caring Inventory for Social Workers (Ellett, 2000). Each item is rated on a four-point scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree. This scale has good reliability ([alpha] = .80), and good support exists for its construct validity (for example, it is correlated in the expected direction with parental acceptance of children, cultural competence, willingness to foster children with behavioral and emotional problems, and receptivity to foster children's connections with birth families, and it is not correlated with demographic characteristics), although only in one unpublished study (Orme, Cox, et al., 2006).

Help with Fostering Inventory. The Help with Fostering Inventory is a new 28-item scale with three subscales. Higher subscale scores indicate more anticipated help with fostering from worship groups (four items), professionals (11 items), and extended kin (four items). Internal consistency reliability is excellent for worship groups ([alpha] = .92), good for the professionals ([alpha] = .81), and adequate for extended kin ([alpha] = .70). Good preliminary support exists for the construct validity of all three subscales (for example, one or more subscales correlate in the expected direction with number of years fostered, number of children fostered, number of children licensed to foster, number of children adopted, and intention to continue fostering) (Orme, Cherry, & Rhodes, 2006).

Cultural Receptivity to Fostering Scale. The Cultural Receptivity to Fostering Scale is a new 25-item scale on which higher scores indicate greater openness to learning about the culture of a foster child. This scale has excellent internal consistency reliability ([alpha] = .97), and good preliminary support exists for its construct validity (for example, it is correlated in the expected direction with cultural competence, parental acceptance, potential to foster, and intention to continue fostering, and it is not correlated with demographic characteristics) (Coakley & Orme, 2006).

Receptivity to Birth Family Connections Scale. The Receptivity to Birth Family Connections Scale is a new 14-item scale on which higher scores indicate greater professional commitment, moral-ethical consciousness, receptivity, and responsiveness to birth parents. This scale has adequate reliability ([alpha] = .78), and good support exists for its construct validity (for example, it is correlated with cultural competence, greater willingness to foster children with behavioral and emotional problems, intention to continue fostering, and number of children fostered, and it is not correlated with demographic characteristics), although only in one unpublished study (Orme, Cox, et al., 2006).

RESULTS

Variables Used to Examine Validity

The internal consistency reliability of the scales used to measure psychosocial antecedents was .70 for one scale and ranged from .80 to .93 for the remaining scales (see Table 2). The internal consistency reliability of three of five scales used to measure psychosocial outcomes ranged from .85 to .97, and for two scales it ranged from .73 to .78.

The remaining outcome variables were those used to measure the availability and utilization of foster family placements. Most mothers planned to continue fostering for at least six months (95.4%), one year (93.7%), and three years (89.8%). On average, mothers had fostered about five years (Mdn = 5.00, N = 304) and were licensed to foster three children (Mdn = 3.00, N = 304). Typically, they had fostered 11 children (Mdn = 11.00, N = 304), had only requested that one be removed (Mdn = 1.00, n = 295), and had two foster children in their home at time of participation in the study (Mdn = 2.00, N = 304). Only 19% had no foster children in their home, but 74% were below licensed capacity.

ATS Factorial Structure

Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of the ATS was conducted to explore whether one or more dimensions underlie the item scores. EFA was used because the ATS is a new measure of a new construct, and there is not enough information to specify the underlying factor structure (Fabrigar, Wegener, MacCallum, & Strahan, 1999; Loehlin, 2004). Unweighted least squares with promax rotation was used for the factor analysis, the scree test was used to guide the number of factors, and the structure matrix was used to guide interpretation of factors.

Bartlett's test of sphericity [[chi square](190, N = 303) = 2159.20, p < .001] and the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy (.84) strongly supported the suitability of the ATS items for factor analysis. The scree test clearly indicated a one-factor solution. All of the factor loadings were .37 or greater (see Table 3).

ATS Scoring Procedures, Descriptive Statistics, and Internal Consistency Reliability

A total score was computed for the ATS using the following formula:

S = (M- 1)(100)/K - 1,

where S is the scale score, M is the mean item score, and K is the largest possible value for an item response. This formula results in a potential range of values from 0 through 100, with higher scores indicating more available time to foster. The mean ATS score for foster mothers was 77.28 (SD = 12.73), and the median was 77.50 (interquartile range = 68.75-87.50). Compared with a normal distribution, the distribution of the ATS total scores was negatively skewed (-.39, SE = .14) but not kurtotic. All of the corrected-item total correlations were .37 or greater (see Table 3; Cronbach's [alpha] = .87, SEM = 4.59).

ATS Validity

Three facets of validity were examined: (1) the relationship between demographic characteristics and the ATS; (2) the relationship of psychosocial antecedents to the ATS; and (3) the relationship between the ATS and outcomes, including indicators of availability and utilization of foster family placements. Nondirectional hypotheses were tested with [alpha] = .05 because results in either direction would be important. Listwise deletion was used because the amount of missing data was very small.

Demographics. We explored the relationship between available time to foster and foster mothers' education level, race-ethnicity, marital status, and yearly family income. Superficially, we might expect married mothers to have more time because their spouses share household responsibilities or because they choose to reduce the amount of time they spend employed outside the home. Also, European Americans, on average, have higher education levels and, by extension, higher incomes than do people of other races. This additional income might afford more time for fostering to the extent that other household responsibilities (for example, housework, yard work) can be hired out. Therefore, if there was a relationship between available time and the demographic variables, it would raise questions about the construct validity of the ATS.

We used bivariate correlation and linear multiple regression to examine the association between demographic characteristics and the ATS scores (see Table 4). ATS scores were negatively correlated with education but were not correlated with any of the other variables. ATS scores were regressed simultaneously on highest level of education completed, racial-ethnic background (European American [0], African American or other [1]), marital status (not married or partnered [0], married or otherwise partnered [1]), and total family income in the past year. ATS scores were only associated with education, and only 5% of the variance in ATS scores was accounted for by demographic variables. Specifically, mothers with less education reported having more time available for fostering.

Psychosocial Antecedents. Bivariate correlations were used to examine associations between antecedents and ATS scores (see Table 5). ATS scores were correlated positively with family functioning; personal dedication to fostering; and anticipated help with fostering from worship groups, professionals, and kin. Linear regression was used to examine the combined effect of psychosocial antecedents on the ATS. Psychosocial antecedents explained 26.1% of the variance in the ATS scores, and three of the five antecedents were significant in the regression: family functioning, personal dedication to fostering, and help with fostering from professionals.

Outcomes. Outcomes were assessed with continuous scales as well as dichotomous and count variables. Bivariate correlations were used to examine associations between ATS scores and scales (see Table 6). ATS scores were correlated positively with cultural receptivity to fostering, receptivity to birth family connections, foster child development, and fostering challenging children but not to worker agency challenges.

Multivariate regression was used to examine the relationship between ATS scores and the outcome variables. Similar to the bivariate correlations, ATS scores significantly predicted each of the outcome variables except for worker agency challenges (see Table 6).

We used binary logistic regression to test hypotheses concerning intention to continue fostering, because the dependent variable was binary (Hosmer & Lemeshow, 2000), and we used the odds ratio (OR) and percentage of change ([DELTA]%) associated with a 1 standard deviation increase in ATS scores to quantify effect size. We used Poisson or negative binomial regression to test the remaining hypotheses because the dependent variables were counts, and we used [DELTA]% associated with a 1 standard deviation increase in ATS scores to quantify effect size. We used negative binomial regression when overdispersion was present (years fostered, number of children fostered, number of children removed) and Poisson regression when it was not (number of children in the home) (Hilbe, 2007; Orme & Combs-Orme, 2009).

In testing hypotheses concerning utilization, we controlled for availability. That is, we controlled for number of years fostered in examining number of children fostered, because those who had fostered longer had had the opportunity to foster more children. We also controlled for number of children fostered in examining number of children removed, because those who had fostered more children had had more opportunities to request removal of foster children. Finally, we controlled for licensed capacity in examining number of foster children currently in the home, because those with a greater capacity had the opportunity to foster more children at a given time.

Mothers with more available time to foster were more likely to plan to continue fostering for the next year (OR = 1.63, [DELTA]% = 63, Wald = 4.55, n = 303, p = .033) and three years (OR = 1.55, [DELTA]% = 55, Wald = 5.65, N = 304, p = .017) but not for the next six months (OR = 1.58, [DELTA]% = 58, Wald = 3.10, N = 304,p = .078).They also had fostered longer ([DELTA]% = 14.6, Wald = 6.17, N = 304,p = .013) and had fostered more children ([DELTA]% = 14.6, Wald = 5.38, N = 304, p = .020). However, available time did not predict the number of children in the home ([DELTA]% = 7.2%, Wald = 2.52, n = 303, p = .113) or the number of children removed from the home at foster mother's request ([DELTA]% = 1.8, Wald = 0.05, n = 295, p = .816).

DISCUSSION

This article describes a new measure, the ATS, designed to assess the amount of time foster parents are able to devote to fostering activities. It has excellent internal consistency reliability and good support for validity. Education was the only demographic characteristic related to ATS scores, and it accounted for a small portion of variance. The ATS was associated in the expected direction with important antecedent variables: personal dedication to fostering, family functioning, and help with fostering. Specifically, the respect, encouragement, and appreciation for their efforts that foster parents perceive from agency workers appear to be more important than the help foster parents get from other sources (family or worship groups).

Support exists for the validity of the ATS to predict a number of important foster parent outcomes. First, ATS scores predicted foster parent behaviors desirable for the general well-being and development and the behavioral, emotional, and cultural needs of foster children. Available time also was an important predictor of receptivity to birth family connections, but not for the potential to manage challenging relationships with foster care workers and agencies. This latter missing relation ship is curious, given that help with fostering from professionals was one of the most highly correlated antecedents of the ATS. Perhaps help from professionals is an important supportive component in foster parents' perception of time, but foster parents are not willing to deal with agency challenges regardless of time availability.

Support also exists forATS scores as predictors of some, but not all, availability and utilization variables. ATS scores were positively related to the number of years fostered, total number of children fostered, and intention to continue fostering for the next one and three years. ATS scores did not predict intention to continue fostering for the next six months. This may reflect a change in household circumstances (for example, moving, returning to work) that has not yet but will soon change time availability. For example, Rhodes, Orme, and Buehler (2001) found that 31% of foster parents planning to quit fostering were returning to work full-time.

ATS scores did not predict the number of foster children currently in the home. This may reflect the fact, supported by research, that foster homes are often underused (Cox, Orme, & Rhodes, 2002; Gibbs & Wildfire, 2007); this finding would indicate that available time, in and of itself, does not predict how many children a family will foster. Indeed, 74% of the households in this study were below licensed capacity. This may also reflect agency placement decisions to ask foster parents who are caring for children with severe and complex problems to take fewer children. Lastly, ATS scores were not related to the number of foster children removed from the home at the request of foster mothers. This lack of relationship may reflect the fact that, by itself, available time to foster is not the solution to placement stability. For example, difficulties caring for foster children with severe emotional or behavioral problems go well beyond simple availability of time.

Strengths of this study include use of a national sample of foster mothers from public and private agencies, considerable variation in fostering experience, and a sample size large enough to detect at least medium effect sizes in testing validity hypotheses. Limitations include use of a nonprobability sample and a cross-sectional design. Age and marital status were similar to those of foster mothers in the only national probability sample of licensed foster parents, the National Survey of Current and Former Foster Parents (Cox et al., 2002; Rhodes et al., 2001). However, a higher proportion of mothers in the present study were European American, and families in the present study had higher annual family incomes. Also, a higher proportion of mothers were college educated and employed outside the home. It may be that available time to foster is even more important for less advantaged foster parents. For example, mothers' educational attainment is inversely related to children's problem behaviors in the general population (Chase-Lansdale, Gordon, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1997); hence, available time might be more critical for less educated foster parents.

Regarding the cross-sectional design, it is probable that mothers who intended to quit were underrepresented, as were mothers who had fostered for a shorter time, were licensed to foster fewer children, had fostered fewer children, had requested removal of fewer children, and had fewer foster children in the home (Gibbs & Wildfire, 2007). Underrepresentation of these groups likely would result in a sample with less variability in ATS scores and in variables used to test validity hypotheses .This range restriction of ATS scores in turn might lead to underestimates of the strength of the relationships examined in testing validity hypotheses, which might be one reason that some of the availability and utilization validity hypotheses were not supported.

Research on the ATS should be extended in several ways. First, internal consistency reliability should be replicated by testing with an ethnically-racially representative sample of foster parent applicants, including male and female, as well as kinship and nonkinship, applicants. Second, validity evidence should be extended by examining the relationship of the ATS to additional outcomes relevant to fostering, most important the safety, permanence, and well-being of foster children. Third, the validity of the ATS should be tested longitudinally to predict foster parent skills and performance and child outcomes.

The ATS is brief and can be easily administered, scored, and interpreted with minimal training (Rhodes, Cox, Orme, & Coakley, 2006). It could be used with foster parents to clarify time demands, their involvement in the foster parent role, and what they need to fulfill this role successfully. It also might be used to improve agency and worker decisions about how best to support, monitor, and retain foster families and to guide placement decisions.

The present results support tentative use of the ATS in practice for foster parent applicants. Time to commit to fostering is a consideration for applicants when deciding to proceed with licensing after preservice training (Baum, Crase, & Crase, 2001). Screening with the ATS during the initial licensing process could direct home study interview questions to clarify applicants' perceptions of time, identify strengths, and explore what they might need to foster successfully.

Information from the ATS could also be helpful for identifying changes at the time of relicensing. Perceptions of time might change as parents become more familiar with how to work with children and agencies (Morrissette, 1994) and with resources for children (Pasztor, Hollinger, Inkelas, & Halfon, 2006). Time commitments also might change as foster parents become more attached to a child in their care (Cole & Eamon, 2007b; Heflinger & Taylor-Richardson, 2004). Changes in family circumstances and foster parents' health status might also affect time for fostering (Brown & Bednar, 2006). Resolution of changes may improve fostering satisfaction and reduce placement disruption in addition to helping to identify foster parents' training needs. Particularly in couples, mothers most frequently initiate fostering, whereas fathers' views influence whether families continue fostering (Baum et al., 2001; Cautley, 1980).The ATS might help identify differences in couples' views and facilitate timely discussion about fostering problems, thereby reducing fostering burnout.

Information from the ATS could also be used in making placement decisions. Some children have needs that take more time than others. The ATS provides objective criteria for matching children with foster families. Similar to the other self-report measures in the CHAP-SR Questionnaire, ATS scores should not be used to discourage or exclude applicants from becoming foster parents. Rather, the ATS is designed to assist in identifying applicants' fostering strengths and development needs.

Finally, the ATS could be used in research to examine how available time influences the well-being and functioning of foster families, parents, and children. It can be completed easily online (www.fosterfamilyassessments.org), in conjunction with other assessment measures, all of which are free of charge.

Although foster families provide day-to-day care for the vast majority of children in foster care, we know very little about the characteristics of successful foster parents or how best to measure these characteristics. A sustained and methodologically rigorous program of research should be undertaken to better understand and promote factors that lead to positive outcomes for children in foster family care, foster families themselves, and agencies that serve these valuable families and vulnerable children. The present study provides one contribution to this effort.

APPENDIX: AVAILABLE TIME SCALE (ATS)

The following is a list of ways foster parents spend their time. Foster parents use their time differently. Every foster parent does not do all of the tasks on this fist. This questionnaire asks you to indicate how often you have time for these activities. Please select the response that best describes how often you have time. Please answer all of the questions.

To what extent do you have time for the following activities for or with a foster child?

1 = Never 2 = Once in a while 3 = Sometimes 4 = Quite often 5 = Very often
Scale statements Response #

1. Help a child while s/he does homework. --
2. Play games with a child. --
3. Be home to care for a sick child. --
4. Keep files on immunization, health, and
 school records. --
5. Set up a child's medical and dental appointments. --
6. Go with a child to medical, dental, and therapy
 appointments. --
7. Go to school to talk with a child's teachers. --
8. Meet with foster care workers to decide about goals
 for a child. --
9. Go to foster care training sessions. --
10. Keep notes about a child's progress. --
11. Help a child save personal keepsakes. --
12. Take a child to visit with his/her birth family. --
13. Take a child to recreational activities. --
14. Go to foster care association meetings. --
15. Meet with foster care workers to discuss a child's
 progress. --
16. Talk with other people about becoming foster parents. --
17. Help coach/lead a child's recreation activities. --
18. Go to a child's school if called for an emergency. --
19. Meet with a child's therapists and counselors. --
20. Share advice and help with other foster parents. --


Original manuscript received December 27, 2006

Final revision received July 15, 2008

Accepted October 9, 2008

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Donna J. Cherry, PhD, is a postdoctoral associate, College of Medicine, Florida State University. John G. Orme, PhD, is professor, College of Social Work, University of Tennessee.

Kathryn W. Rhodes, PhD, is a psychotherapist and consultant, Relationship Therapy Center, Chattanooga, TN. Casey Family Programs funded this work. The authors thank Cheryl Buehler, Tanya M. Coakley, Mary Ellen Cox, and Gary Cuddeback for their extensive help in the development and implementation of the overall study of which the present study is a part; the many foster parents who made this study possible; and, finally, Terri Combs-Orme for her assistance on this article. Address correspondence to John G. Orme, College of Social Work, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996; e-mail: jorme@utk.edu.
Table 1: Foster Mothers' Demographic
Characteristics (N = 304)

Characteristic %

Marital status (n = 303)
 Married, no stepchildren 57.1
 Married, stepchildren 17.5
 Domestic partnership 4.0
 Single, never married 6.3
 Widowed 3.0
 Divorced or separated 12.2

Race
 European American 87.2
 African American 10.5
 Hispanic 3.0
 American Indian 2.0

Highest academic degree
 Less than high school 2.2
 High school/CED 21.7
 College, no degree 29.9
 Two-year degree 16.8
 Bachelor's degree 18.8
 Advanced degree 10.5

Employment status
 Full time 32.6
 Part time 17.1
 Unemployed, looking for work 1.0
 Homemaker, not employed outside home 34.9
 Disabled or retired, not employed outside home 7.2
 Other 7.2

Yearly family income (n = 302)
 <$10,000 1.3
 $10,000-$19,999 6.3
 $20,000-$29,999 10.6
 $30,000-$39,999 20.2
 $40,000-$49,999 11.5
 $50,000-$59,999 15.2
 $60,000-$G9,999 11.3
 $70,000-$79,999 7.0
 $80,000-$89,999 6.3
 $90>000-$99,999 3.9
 [greater than or equal to] $100,000 6.3

Note: Race percentages do not add up to 100% because foster
mothers were asked to select all that applied.

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics and Reliability of
Scales Used to Validate the Available Time Scale

 Potential
Scale Range M

Antecedents
 Family Functioning Style Scale 26-130 107.74
 Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale 0-100 76.29
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Worship Groups 0-100 30.92
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Professionals 0-100 42.15
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Kin 0-100 28.10

Outcomes
 Cultural Receptivity to Fostering Scale 0-100 80.42
 Receptivity to Birth Family Connections Scale 0-100 70.91
 Foster Child Development 0-100 79.66
 Foster Challenging Children 0-100 58.69
 Worker Agency Challenges 0-100 57.63

Scale SD Mdn

Antecedents
 Family Functioning Style Scale 12.57 108.50
 Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale 9.22 75.93
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Worship Groups 32.40 25.00
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Professionals 19.08 39.39
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Kin 25.17 25.00

Outcomes
 Cultural Receptivity to Fostering Scale 15.25 82.00
 Receptivity to Birth Family Connections Scale 9.91 69.05
 Foster Child Development 8.74 79.66
 Foster Challenging Children 12.91 60.04
 Worker Agency Challenges 13.37 59.26

Scale [alpha] N (n)

Antecedents
 Family Functioning Style Scale .93 304 (303)
 Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale .80 304 (302)
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Worship Groups .92 304 (304)
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Professionals .81 304 (304)
 Help with Fostering Inventory--Kin .70 304 (304)

Outcomes
 Cultural Receptivity to Fostering Scale .97 304 (303)
 Receptivity to Birth Family Connections Scale .78 304 (303)
 Foster Child Development .90 304 (299)
 Foster Challenging Children .85 304 (296)
 Worker Agency Challenges .73 304 (301)

Note: Sample sizes used in computing coefficient alpha are
given in parentheses.

Table 3: Available Time Scale (ATS) Item Statistics
and Exploratory Factor Analysis (n = 303)

 Statistic
 Cronbach's
 Factor [alpha] if Corrected
Item M SD Loading Item Deleted Item Total

1 4.26 .90 .41 .87 .39
2 3.81 .83 .37 .87 .37
3 4.39 .93 .41 .87 .38
4 4.58 .81 .48 .86 .42
5 4.76 .54 .48 .87 .42
G 4.74 .60 .50 .87 .42
7 4.47 .91 .64 .86 .58
8 4.34 .86 .66 .86 .59
9 3.92 1.03 .65 .86 .61
10 3.97 1.04 .58 .86 .55
11 4.30 .87 .54 .86 .52
12 3.78 1.23 .41 .87 .39
13 4.31 .76 .45 .86 .44
14 3.20 1.36 .49 .86 .47
15 4.15 .87 .62 .86 .56
16 3.43 1.05 .50 .86 .49
17 2.58 1.31 .41 .87 .40
18 4.56 .92 .44 .87 .40
19 4.48 .81 .64 .86 .57
20 3.79 1.07 .55 .86 .53

Note: Variance of the factor explained by total of the ATS
items = 26.95%.

Table 4: Available Time Scale and
Demographic Characteristics,
Correlations, and Regression (n = 300)

Demographic r B SE B [beta] t(295)

Education -.20 ** -1.68 ** 0.52 -.20 -3.23
European American -.09 -3.64 2.20 -.10 -1.66
Married/partnered .01 -0.36 2.00 -.01 -0.18
Income -.09 -0.01 0.09 -.01 -0.10

Note: [R.sup.2] = .05, F(4, 296) = 3.97, p = .004.

** p < .01 (two-tailed).

Table 5: Available Time Scale and Psychosocial
Antecedents: Correlations and Regression (n = 303)

Psychosocial Antecedent r B SE B

Family Functioning Style Scale .25 ** 0.11 * 0.06
Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale .36 ** 0.39 ** 0.07
Help with Fostering Inventory-Worship Groups .15 ** 0.00 0.02
Help with Fostering Inventory-Professionals .38 ** 0.21 ** 0.04
Help with Fostering Inventory-Kin .16 * 0.03 0.05

Psychosocial Antecedent [beta] t(297)

Family Functioning Style Scale .110 2.02
Personal Dedication to Fostering Scale .280 5.36
Help with Fostering Inventory-Worship Groups .000 0.06
Help with Fostering Inventory-Professionals .320 6.13
Help with Fostering Inventory-Kin .030 0.99

Note: [R.sup.2] = .26, F(5, 298) = 21.03, p = .000.

 * p <.06. ** p < .01.

Table 6: Available Time Scale and Outcome Variables:
Correlations and Regression (N = 304)

Outcome Variable r 55 df F I

Cultural Receptivity to
 Fostering Scale .42 ** 12430.81 1 64.65 **
Receptivity to Birth Family
 Connections Scale .21 ** 1263.98 1 13.40 **
Foster Child Development .31 ** 2.03 1 32.66 **
Foster Challenging Children .34 ** 5.30 1 39.83 **
Worker Agency Challenges .10 0.47 1 2.96

 * p < .07 (two-tailed).
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