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Title: Learning to foster : articulating the dimensions
Author: Hartley, Alexandra Gayle
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 6873
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2015
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This study was prompted by my feelings of ignorance and insecurity as a newly approved foster carer welcoming a traumatised five year old child in to our home. What I perceived to be an inadequate preparation for the everyday practicalities of fostering was exacerbated by the lack of communication between and amongst social workers and foster carers. Yet at study days, I observed that experienced foster carers appeared to have acquired a practice wisdom that I was lacking and unable to access. As a result, my initial questions were as follows. Do experienced foster carers acquire a tacit understanding of their practice in caring for vulnerable and possibly damaged children? Does this understanding relate to known theories in such a way that allows non-specialised or non-treatment foster care to provide a therapeutic intervention for Looked After and Accommodated Children? In order to structure this enquiry, I looked initially to Nussbaum’s (1997) Capabilities Approach, an approach that asks the question: ‘What is this person able to do and to be?’(Nussbaum 2011:21). I adapted this question to: ‘what is it that foster carers do and how can they make a difference in the lives of Looked After and Accommodated children?’. For an individual to use their capabilities to their fullest extent requires the cultivation of their ‘capacities’, namely critical self-examination, connectedness with the world, narrative imagination and scientific understanding, those qualities which enable a person to flourish (Nussbaum, 2011). I used these capacities to construct a conceptual framework for the study. In order to connect with the world of care for children, I conducted ten semi-structured interviews with foster carers and, from that data, I created narratives related to specific areas of care, some of which I had identified a priori and others which I derived from the data. These narratives are explored in relation to current policies and relevant research in an endeavour to identify themes, patterns and contradictions. From this exploration, the key themes of care and caring, aspects of recovery from trauma, and theories of human development, including those of attachment, resilience and well-being, were identified and explored. The narratives and their discussion raise further questions with regards to the moral, political and legal landscape of foster care, my personal positioning in regards to my role, current constructs of care and the potential therapeutic contribution of non-specialised foster carers. Finally, I propose a new form of preparation for foster carers, ‘Learning to Foster’ as a synthesis of my data, which includes recommendations from the National Foster Care Review (LACSIG, 2013). Concluding the study, I suggest that foster carers have the capacity to provide therapeutic interventions for Looked After and Accommodated Children, but that their capability to do so is reduced by the current practices of social work systems. In order to enhance the contributions that foster carers can make, I suggest that dialogue between foster carers, social workers and managers needs to occur and to be strengthened. With the understanding I have gained from undertaking this study, promoting that dialogue will be my next endeavour.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform ; L Education (General)