Exploring Medical Foster Care as a Placement Option for Children With Medical Complexity


Medical foster care (MFC) offers a family-home setting for children with medical complexity (CMC) who cannot be cared for by their parents. We explored MFC as a placement option for CMC via in-depth interviews with the individuals providing and monitoring care.


In collaboration with an MFC agency, we recruited care team members for 15 CMC. Semistructured interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Descriptive analyses were performed on care team composition and roles, the placement process, and child medical, placement, and quality of life (QoL) characteristics. Foster parents completed child QoL questionnaires. Conventional content analysis was applied to participant suggestions for MFC improvements.


Fifty-eight interviews were conducted; a median of 4 care team members interviewed per child. An extensive network of individuals and systems are involved in providing care. Each child received care from multiple subspecialists (median = 5). Most children were technology dependent (87%), developmentally delayed (87%), and entered MFC from the hospital (73%) because of medical neglect (86%). Nearly half were in care for >2 years. Changes in placement and/or care team were common. QoL scoring showed impairments in multiple domains, whereas respondent interviews described positive aspects of QoL. Participants provided suggestions to improve care within MFC.


MFC is a promising placement option for CMC. Because many CMC are entering MFC directly from the hospital and require ongoing care from pediatric subspecialists, pediatricians should be familiar with MFC, the placement process, and the various systems and individuals involved. Pediatricians can play important roles in ensuring that children in MFC receive coordinated and high-quality care.

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