Last month the Western Institute of Nursing (WIN) announced that University of Arizona College of Nursing PhD student Christine Platt had been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Carol A. Lindeman Award for a New Researcher. Since 1976, the award has provided a fledgling researcher with a $100 cash prize and the opportunity for their research to be included, in its entirety, in WIN’s annual conference.
As a first-year PhD student, Platt is only in the beginning stages of her research, but her study, entitled “Placement Disruption of Children with Disabilities in Foster Care,” has the potential for life-changing results for both disabled children in the foster care system and the families that care for them.
With experience as a registered public health nurse, a hospital staff nurse, and a critical care RN in both cardiac and neuro intensive care units, Platt currently sees patients at her professional dermatologic clinic and volunteers in the evenings to serve the community’s under- or un-insured population. But it’s her 10 years as a foster mom that informs Platt’s very personal interest in her research.
"I love helping people, but I’m at a point in my career when I feel like I can give back to my profession. And the way to give back to my profession is really to make a difference in research and teaching. It’s validation that even when the nights get long and circumstances get challenging, to keep going.” ~ Christine Platt, first-year PhD student
“Because of my intensive care and pediatric clinical experience,” Platt says, “the state really liked to place children with special needs and medical conditions in my home, because they knew that if something went wrong they had someone with the training to handle that situation.” Platt -- who has had more than 14 young children placed in her care over the years -- is intimately familiar with the challenges faced by kids with special needs and the families who care for them.
As a part of the community of families raising foster or adoptive children with special needs, from learning disabilities to severe physical disabilities, Platt saw how foster families grew confidence and strength when things went right, but she also saw how painful results could become when families lacked the resources, education or training to take in a child with special needs. The desire to improve outcomes for this population was the genesis of Platt’s award-winning research.
Her first step was to examine whether what she was seeing in the community – children with disabilities jumping from foster family to foster family and ending up spending more time in the system – was an accurate representation of the facts. An investigation of data and trends revealed this was true. Platt’s second step was to examine the successful resources and protective factors that help foster families provide a stable environment for these unique kids.
“My research will focus on qualitative information and quantitative data to see what help is available, and then look at interventions, whether through training, education, or even political action, to give these kids a real fighting chance and improve the system for them,” Platt says.
Although she has many months of work ahead of her, she theorizes that the right combination of training and education will be key for foster family success. Platt also plans to take a holistic approach with her research, examining how the situation affects not just the foster parents and the foster child, but also any other siblings that may be in the home. “The foster parents may be receiving education,” she says, “but what preparation do the kids in the home have to be able to help out and incorporate a foster child into their home and give them the love and the stability that they need? I want to look at not just the caregiver preparedness, but also the family preparedness.”
That preparedness, Platt theorizes, will lead to improved outcomes for this vulnerable population. With everything stacked against them, she believes her research can ultimately improve their health, not only for the period they spend in state custody, but for their lifetime.
Asked about her feelings about being awarded WIN’s New Researcher award, she expresses pride in being recognized by her peers. “It tells me that what I’m doing matters,” she says. “I love research. I enjoy writing. I love helping people, but I’m at a point in my career when I feel like I can give back to my profession. And the way to give back to my profession is really to make a difference in research and teaching. It’s validation that even when the nights get long and circumstances get challenging, to keep going.”
Christine Platt will receive her award at the 2020 WIN Conference Awards Lunch, which will be held on Thursday, April 16.