Delays in Hospital Discharge for Children in Foster Care: Reasons and Recommendations From a Multisite Study

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Objective: To elucidate challenges to timely hospital discharge of children in foster care (CFC). Methods: Inpatient providers with prior experience caring for CFC were recruited from 6 mid-Atlantic hospitals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore provider experience discharging CFC. Conventional content analysis was applied to interview transcripts with Dedoose software. Results: Interviews were completed with 15 MDs/NPs, 11 RNs, 10 social workers, and 2 case managers. Participants explained that delayed discharge is the norm for CFC, especially for those entering new foster care placements. Participants detailed challenges to efficiently discharging CFC, which were categorized into 3 themes: 1) Waiting for discharge disposition: Providers’ ability to proceed with discharge planning is contingent on procedural steps (eg, court decisions) needed to determine disposition (eg, entering new foster care placement); 2) Medically cleared, but no place to go: Participants report placement searches are often not initiated by child welfare until the child is medically cleared. Lack of available, appropriate foster care placements delays discharge, particularly for children with complex medical or behavioral diagnoses; 3) Coordinating for a safe discharge: Establishing a safe discharge for CFC involves meticulous discharge planning, foster parent training, and multidisciplinary team communication/coordination. Conclusion: Delayed discharge for CFC is multifactorial, yet often predictable. There are modifiable factors identified that can be addressed to promote timely hospital discharge and prevent medically unnecessary hospital days, benefitting patients in foster care and the hospital system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1452-1458
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • discharge delay
  • discharge planning
  • foster care
  • hospital discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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