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Title: Identification of factors influencing children's length of stay in care
Author: Aldgate, Patricia Jane
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1977
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Chapter 1 traces the development of substitute care for Scottish children deprived of a normal home life, placing particular emphasis on the development of the boarding out system during the latter half of the nineteenth: century. Chapter 2 reviews the relevant research on children in substitute care, drawing attention to the wealth of evidence on the effects of separation, the different types of care on a child's well-being and on the role of foster parents. It draws attention to the little research which has been done on the contribution of natural parents to the rehabilitation of children in care. Chapter 3 sets out the aims of the study to identify factors influencing children's stay in long term voluntary local authority care, and indicates five main areas for evaluation: 1. The social circumstances that brought children into care; 2. Children's circumstances before and during care; 3. The part played by natural parents at reception into care and during the placement; 4. The contribution made by those looking after the children in care.; 5. The activity of the agency. Long-term care is defined as a period of not less than twelve weeks. The chapter describes how the study compares a sample of children currently in care for at least this length of time with another group who has also been in care for not less than three months but who had returned to their parents. The second half of the chapter describes how the sample was drawn from two study Social Work Departments, how information was gained from three sources - interviews, case files and postal questionnaires. There is discussion of how it was decided to evaluate the sample on a family basis and the difficulties involved in obtaining data from three sources where some participants were not available for interview. Finally the chapter describes the statistical analysis used in the study. The main findings of the study are discussed in Chapters 4 to 8. Chapter 4 investigates the influences of reason for care and the social background of families at reception into care on children's stay in care. The conclusion is reached that families whose children were received into care for reasons of homelessness, unsatisfactory home conditions or short-term illness, were likely to be reunited more quickly than children who had been received into care because of their mother's desertion, because they were illegitimate or their mothers were suffering from long-term psychiatric illness. The chapter shows how parental relationships, the age of the mother at reception into care, the income of families, their accommodation, the size of the family and the relationship between siblings, all contributed to children's stay in care. Chapter 5 investigates the meaning of the experience of reception into care for both parents and caretakers. The involvement of natural parents from the point of their referral to the Social Work Department to the day their children were received into care, is examined. The theoretical importance attached to preparation for care is contrasted with the attitudes and experiences of natural parents and caretakers. There is consideration of parental emotions at reception into care. The chapter concludes that parental functioning at reception into care may not be representative of normal parental capacities and that it is unwise to regard the involvement of natural parents at this time as a predictive factor indicating for or against rehabilitation. Chapter 6 continues the evaluation of the involvement of parents during the placement and establishes that frequent contact between parents and children was a significant factor indicating for children's return from care. The second part of the chapter uses material gained from interviews with natural parents to investigate factors which may facilitate or hinder contact between parents and children. These-included the reason for care, parental motivation, distance, age of children, early social work encouragement, the type of home and the attitude of caretakers towards parents. Chapter 7 considers variables within the placement which may contribute to children's stay in care, including the use made of foster homes and children's homes. Irrespective of the type of placement, it is concluded that after a separation of two years, the chances of children's return to their families may be substantially reduced. The second part of the chapter establishes considerable agreement between the expressed attitudes of caretakers to parents and those perceived by parents. Factors influencing the attitudes of caretakers are examined, including the length of a child's stay in the placement and contact between children and parents. It was found that foster parents and houseparents held very different attitudes to parents. The third part of the chapter attempts to account for these differences in terms of role perceptions, examining motivation, attitudes to voluntary care, adoptions, children's assimilation into the caretaking family and children's need. The fourth part of the chapter considers the influence of social work activity on the child's well-being and the attitudes of caretakers and concludes the social work activity in relation to these factors was peripheral. Although social workers did not collude with the negative attitudes of caretakers to natural families, their passivity seemed to reinforce these attitudes. Chapter 8 examines the influence of social work activity with natural parents on children's stay in care. The chapter shows that the intensity of ongoing contact between social workers and parents is a significant factor in indicating for the return of children from care. The type of social work activity offered to natural parents is outlined with the exception of practical support, no one type of activity was significant in indicating for the return of children from care. There is consideration of the considerable social work passivity towards natural parents and the implications this had for the outcome of care. The second part of the chapter contrasts social workers' perceptions of activity with those given by natural parents. It is shown that, although there-were similarities between the types of activity cited by these two groups, there were considerable differences in the way social workers and natural parents saw the social work task. Client dissatisfaction was expressed when expectations of receiving material aid were unmet, when social workers were insensitive to parental needs or were seen as child snatchers. Satisfaction came from the provision of practical support, sometimes emotional support, social work consistency, sensitivity and efficiency. The chapter concludes that social workers may need to take more initiative in working with the parents of children in care and to give greater consideration to sociological as well as psychological factors within the dynamics of natural families. Chapter 9 summarises the major findings of the study and discusses the implications for practice. These include the need for more emphasis on primary prevention, constructive social work activity immediately after separation, consideration of the type of placement which will facilitate return from care and consistent attempts from social workers to involve natural parents in the lives of their children while they are in care.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available