Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Janet Chang


Foster children are already at a disadvantage given that they tend to live in a home without their parents. Social workers have direct interactions working with children with special needs, and through interviews with the workers, we aimed to understand whether or not the services available are able to meet foster children’s special needs. The research on special needs children in foster care is quite limited. The purpose of the study was to identify social workers’ perceptions of the needs of special needs foster children and their access to services.

This study used qualitative interviews with open-ended questions to gather qualitative data from ten social worker participants. The researchers employed thematic analysis techniques to analyze the qualitative data. The themes that emerged from analyzing the data were social workers’ challenges in providing services to special needs foster children, social workers’ access to services, and the need for institutional support to effectively manage service delivery for special needs foster children. This study found that social workers face challenges in obtaining training for parents and social workers, navigating complex funding processes, managing inconsistent desires between parents and court officials, and dealing with the limited number of capable foster homes. The social workers interviewed identified different tactics that could be implemented in order to improve services for the special needs foster children through changes and improvements within the department. Understanding large-scale policy and practice issues, such as organizational change or resource management, can lead county agency social workers to advocate for the challenges of special needs children in child welfare.