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The Inner World of Foster Care 2008

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1 The Inner World of Foster Care 2008
Alyson Rees

2 Ideas for project Research contract to evaluate a foster carers’ support project It seemed that some carers were more resilient than others Some carers were more successful than others Wanted to look at what works in individualised situations in foster care Wanted to include children, particularly birth children

3 Perspective Very few qualitative studies –many of large data sets, driven and prompted by outcomes and targets (Sinclair et al. 2003) Strengths based perspective Saleeby (2002). Put foster care under the sociological gaze Child focused and give the children a voice

4 Data sample 10 foster families across Wales
The families were from 3 separate sites- local authority carers, independent agency carers and local authority carers with additional specialist support.

5 Mixed methods study A qualitative case study design
A postal questionnaire-demographic data In-depth audio-taped interviews with carers, including challenging behaviour inventory Semi-structured interviews with birth children and foster children Eco maps Vignette family exercise-participant observation Taped diaries/written diaries/ ed diaries

6 Data collection Data collection took place over 12 months
All interviews transcribed, coded and analysed hours of taped material. N vivo computer assisted analysis programme In total 71 units of mixed method data analysed

7 Findings-Basic comforts and nurturing
Personal physical caring Appearance Self esteem Personal discourse Clothing

8 Body boundaries Rules about space
Rules on the wall e.g. bathroom rules Rules for birth children e.g. dressing gowns Rules to be learnt quickly by foster children and assimilated

9 Touch and intimacy The need for touch Fear of allegation (Piper 2006)
Touch avoidance routinised Touch appreciated by young people Carers willing to take risks Pets

10 Quote from a young person
He (foster parent) is a real people-person, he is a very funny person and a very serious person as well. I found living with him, he’d mess about ‘do you want a fight’ just messing around, we just got on so well from the moment I came here. He was very hands on, he’d put his arms round me and stuff… with Hazel (carer) …- it would be when I needed it whereas with Josh it would often be as a friendly arm around, with Hazel would be a motherly hug…

11 Quote from a foster carer
I remember one (foster child) who said “Why do people hug?” They weren’t allowed to hug! Like before she goes to bed…she had a hug and said goodnight ……it did her good to show her feelings…

12 Food The symbolic importance of food (Hamil 2007)
A child that is well fed understands what it is like to feel satisfied Children who have been neglected will expect chaotic meal times filled with disappointment They will not have that warm, satisfying feeling of one's needs being met. Continuing to provide good food to the child despite their behaviour , gives the message that s/he is deserving of good things. That s/he is special e.g. Harry Potter and solidiers Therapeutic role for food

13 Quote from a young person
Food is very important. I don’t know if she told you (laughs) I do have a very good appetite and that has only happened since I came here. I never used to be able to finish one helping of food and now I can finish about five. Carer similarly appreciates a child who responds and eats well

14 Toast It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. People's failings, even major ones such as when they make you wear short trousers to school, fall into insignificance as your teeth break through the rough, toasted crust and sink into the doughy cushion of white bread underneath. Once the warm, salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands. [Toast - the story of a boy's hunger Nigel Slater]

15 Birth children Importance of the role of birth children
Much research has ignored them Family business Semi-professionals. Should they be trained? Agencies rarely engage with them

16 Birth children continued
Most enjoyed helping. Learnt vicariously about the dangers of the world Developed skills of empathy and appreciative of their own lives Found sharing space difficult Risk to them rarely identified (e.g having to change in certain places, locked doors, gender) Allegations made against them Feelings of displacement

17 Quote from a birth child
You know they did actually place someone (who was a year younger) with the same name which was horrible. It was really horrible. I was big Sara and she was little Sara. That was awful……Well I didn’t like being big Sara (laughs). I’m not big, I’m little. Um and the name shouldn’t come into it but it is difficult……. I don’t know what it was really. Its hard to imagine what its like to have someone else there the same (as you). I guess it’s a bit of role removal as well…… I hated them copying. I remember with Sara, the one with the same name, Mum was taking me clothes shopping and it was quite a rare thing cos I always had hand me downs from my older cousins and my Mum had taken me clothes shopping and then Sara had her clothing money through and she went out and bought just exactly the same thing and that was like uhhh, the copying especially at like 14, 15 years of age

18 References Chase,E., Simon,S. and Jackson,S.( 2006) In Care and After: A Positive Perspective. London: Routeledge Hamil,J. (2007) The Symbolic Significance of Food in the Treatment, Care and Recovery of Emotionally Damaged Children. London: Fostering Network, Morgan,D. (1996) Family Connections: An Introduction to Family Studies. Cambridge :Polity Press, Piper,H., Powell,J.and Smith,H. (2006) Parents, Professionals and Paranoia. The Touching of Children in a Culture of Fear. Journal of Social Work, vol 6 (2) pp Prout, A.(2000) (ed) The Body, Childhood and Society .Hampshire: Macmillan Press Saleeby, D. (Ed.) (2002). The Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice. 3rd. ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Sinclair,I., Wilson,K. and Gibbs,I. (2003) Foster Placements: Why Some Placements Succeed and Some Fail. London: Jessica Kingsley, Slater, N. (2003) Toast: the Story of a Boy’s Hunger, London: Harper Perennial Powell, J. (2001) Sometimes When We Touch. Community Care July Watson, N. and Cunningham–Burley,S. (2001) Reframing The Body. Hants: Palgrave Wilson,K., Sinclair,I. and Gibbs,I. (2001) The trouble with foster care; the impact of stressful events on foster carers’, British Journal of Social Work, vol 30, pp Williams,S.J. and Bendelow,G. (1989) The Lived Body: Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues. London : Routledge

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