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Foster parents’ experiences of long-term placements versus placement breakdowns for foster children Melville-Gaumont, Michele

Abstract

Studies show that when children come into foster care, they experience loss of attachment with their families. When foster children are moved from one foster placement to another, there is further loss of attachment with their foster families. This loss of attachment can lead to health and behaviour problems. A qualitative study was conducted of foster parent’s experiences with long-term placements of foster children in their home in comparison to placement breakdowns. Semi-structured interviews of up to 1.5 hours were conducted with 13 foster parents from eleven foster families. An approach drawing on qualitative description was used to find common themes in long-term placements and placement breakdowns, from the foster parents’ perspectives. Foster parents identified compatibility of placements, on-going support from the child protection agency, teamwork with the professionals connected with the children, and the building of trust with children in their care and the rest of the care team as important factors in maintaining long term placements. From foster parents’ perspectives, placement breakdown was influenced by communication failures with the care team surrounding the children, inadequate planning by the care team, and the limited support to address the challenging behaviours of the children placed in the foster parents’ homes. These findings highlight the complexity of fostering in terms of the challenges, contradictions and ambiguities of the foster parents’ role within the child protection system.

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