British Foster Care Research

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1 British Foster Care Research Professor Ian Sinclair University of York Social Work Research & Development Unit 1

2 Main concerns What are the roles of foster care? What do children want from it? How does it compare with other provisions (adoption, residential care, kin care)? Why do placements go well or badly? What are the long-term outcomes? What helps support, recruit and keep foster carers? Social Work Research & Development Unit 2

3 Who funds it? The funding mainly comes from the government There is some charity and foundation Social Work Research & Development Unit 3

4 What methods does it use? Cross-sectional studies Longitudinal studies ( catch-up or prospective ) Statistical controls Much reliance on interviews and questionnaires Some use of qualitative approaches Very little use of experiment Social Work Research & Development Unit 4

5 What are the key ideas? Views on the value of families Perspectives derived from family research Attachment theory Ideas from social learning Ideas about identity A concern with educational outcomes A high value placed on user views Social Work Research & Development Unit 5

6 Role of foster care Predominant form of provision Provides short, medium and long-term care with some specialist options Further sub-divided by age and number of children per placement At any one point in time most foster children are not going home soon Most research has focussed on long-stay children Social Work Research & Development Unit 6

7 What children want Normality Good family care Respect for their origins Control or influence over key choices Opportunity Social Work Research & Development Unit 7

8 How does foster care compare? Return home some evidence long-stay foster children do, in some respects, better than those who go home Adoption - on balance adoption a more stable and secure option than long-stay foster care, but often not practicable Foster care less costly and more normal than residential care but little evidence on effectiveness Social Work Research & Development Unit 8

9 Kin care There are great variations in the extent to which it is used Formal kin care is mainly used for long-stay care It has various advantages But it also has disadvantages The evidence suggests its use could be expanded but not indefinitely Social Work Research & Development Unit 9

10 Why do placements succeed or fail? The way they are made What the children want Their other characteristics Family contact Carer characteristics Matching and interactions Schooling Possibly other support Social Work Research & Development Unit 10

11 Long-term outcomes Long-term outcomes of short and intermediate care little studied but probably depend on subsequent environments Foster care can provide a family for life, but it rarely does so Initial outcomes of those leaving at 18 not very encouraging Social Work Research & Development Unit 11

12 Recruitment There is little evidence on recruitment It probably depends on local reputation (many carers recruit others) It may also be influenced by nature of remuneration, and specific features of recruitment campaigns (efficiency, use of carers and children, appropriate targeting) Social Work Research & Development Unit 12

13 Recruiting and supporting carers Retention and support varies with: Family situation and aspiration of carer Support, including social work visits, finance, training, groups Events (particularly breakdowns and allegations) Hassles (e.g. issues over insurance) Acceptance as part of team Social Work Research & Development Unit 13

14 Conclusion Foster care is in many ways a very impressive form of provision It copes with a wide variety of children, who mainly speak highly of their carers, who are mainly committed to them However, it is rarely a cure for poor family care or a full substitute for it Its Achilles heel lies not in what it provides but in what comes after it Social Work Research & Development Unit 14

Summary Knowledge review 5: Fostering success An exploration of the research literature in foster care

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