Using Play to Cultivate Resilience Within Resource Families

An Occupational Therapy-Based Community Program


  • Andrea Poe Shenandoah University
  • Dr. Dan Martin Shenandoah University, School of Health Professions


The child welfare system has struggled to meet the mental health needs of displaced youth and parents who accept the role of fostering, contributing to failed placements and a continued shortage in resource parents. A lack of quantitative evidence to support occupational therapy’s legitimate role in addressing mental health in this setting inhibits progress in improving a struggling system. A quasi-experimental pilot study was completed to ascertain the potential for a novel occupational therapy community program to improve placement outcomes. A single group of five resource parents completed a pretest and posttest to determine if the program succeeded in decreasing their parenting stress levels and increasing factors of resilience within their families. The results showed a decrease in stress levels between the pretest and posttest for the Difficult Child subscale scores, t(4) = -1.82, p = .07, d = -0.82, CI 95% [-∞, 0.09],  in addition to the Total Stress scores, t(4) = -1.68 , p = .08, d = -0.75, CI 95% [-∞, 0.13], of the Parenting Stress Index, Fourth Edition Short Form. A significant increase in self-reported confidence regarding parents’ ability to engage in meaningful activities with their children, t(4) = 2.14 , p = .05, d = 0.96, CI 95% [0.002, ∞], and their positive reactions to the program indicate strong potential for a similar occupational therapy program to increase resilience factors within foster families.