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Title: Managing to foster? : an investigation into foster families' experiences of caring for children and managing their behaviour problems.
Author: Gorin, Sarah Janette.
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2000
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Family placement or foster care (as it is more commonly known) is now the most widely used form of care forlooked after children in the UK, howeverthere is relatively little research evidence on any aspect of foster care (Berridge, 1997). A commonly held view of social care professionals is that foster care can provide a beneficial experience for foster children and families (Ruegger and Rayfield, 1999) and is more likely than alternative forms of substitute care to meet individual needs (Corrick, 1999). The aim of this study was to examine foster families' experiences of caring for children particularly in respect of the management of any emotional and behavioural difficulties children who are fostered may experience. Anecdotal evidence from foster carers and social workers suggests that children who are looked after by local authorities present a wider range of needs than previously and that foster carers are now facing a more challenging task (Ruegger and Rayfield, 1999). The study sets out to investigate: the range of problems children are presenting in foster care; the way in which carers manage children's difficulties; the impact looking after children has, if any, on foster families; the ways in which the service can be improved to help children and foster families manage difficulties; and the context in which foster families are caring for children. The research took a multi-method approach which encompassed the collection of quantitative data in order to provide an overview of foster carers' experiences and qualitative data which provided an opportunity to study the dynamics of foster care in more depth. The quantitative data was collected via a postal questionnaire to all the foster carers in one local authority and two unitary authorities (872 carers in total). The questionnaire asked carers about children's behaviour and needs and also about their views on support, training and planning in order to ascertain information from a broad range of carers about what would improve their ability to look after children. A short questionnaire was also sent to carers' children asking them to draw or write about their experiences of fostering. This provided information about their experiences of looking after foster children and illustrated how the behaviour of foster children can effect them. The qualitative data involved case studies of 10 placements of 13 children and young people who had recently moved into a new foster family. The case studies provided in-depth information about what it is like for a foster family to have new children move into their homes and what types and range of difficulties and needs the foster children were experiencing. The case studies were primarily about the foster families' perceptions and experiences but interviews were also carried out with the child's social worker and the children themselves (where appropriate) both at the beginning of the placement and 6 months later. Family placement social workers were consulted by means of a short questionnaire. The postal questionnaire to foster carers discovered that families were looking after children with a wide range of difficult to manage behaviours and needs. The behaviour of foster children and the impact of this on carers' own families was one of the main reasons foster carers cited for thinking of giving up fostering. In addition foster families reported frustration with and lack of support from social services. The training that carers most frequently asked for was on behaviour management. The responses from foster carers' own children illustrate the way in which the behaviour of foster children can impact upon their lives. The case studies highlighted the types of emotional and behavioural difficulties children in foster care may display. Foster carers were shown to be central in helping children overcome these problems. The reasons for placements breaking down or being close to breakdown were complex and individual, yet children's behaviour was a key factor in all of these cases. Carers struggled to cope with children's behaviour and neither carers or children were provided with the support they needed in six out of ten cases.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Foster care; Family placement Sociology Human services