Experiences of the foster care process in the Republic of Ireland: retrospective accounts from biological children of foster carers

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Williams, David
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University College Cork
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This thesis examines the experiences of the biological children of foster carers. In particular it explores their experiences in relation to inclusion, consultation and decision-making. The study also examines the support and training needs of birth children in foster families. Using a qualitative methodology in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifteen birth children of foster carers aged between 18 and 30 years. The research findings show that for the majority of birth children, fostering was overall a positive experience which helped them develop into individuals who were caring and nonjudgemental. However, from the data collected in this study, it is clear that fostering also brings a range of challenges for birth children in foster families, such as managing feelings of loss, grief, jealousy and guilt when foster children leave. Birth children are reluctant to discuss these issues with their parents and often did not approach fostering social workers as they did not have a meaningful relationship in order to discuss their concerns. The findings also demonstrate that birth children undertake a lot of emotional work in supporting their parents, birth siblings and foster siblings. Despite the important role played by birth children in the fostering process, this contribution often goes unrecognised and unacknowledged by fostering professionals and agencies with birth children not included or consulted about foster care decisions that affect them. It is argued here that birth children are viewed by foster care professionals and agencies from a deficit based perspective. However, this study contends that it is not just foster parents who are involved in the foster care process, but the entire foster family. The findings of this study show that birth children are competent social actors capable of making valuable contributions to foster care decisions that affect their lives and that of their family.
Foster care , Birth children of foster carers , Training and support , Sociology of childhood
Williams, D. 2014. Experiences of the foster care process in the Republic of Ireland: retrospective accounts from biological children of foster carers. DSocSc Thesis, University College Cork.
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