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Perspectives of Foster Parents and Social Workers on Foster Placement Disruption

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The potential human and financial costs of foster placement disruption for the children, families, professionals and agencies involved are widely accepted. This service evaluation identified and described perspectives of foster parents and social workers regarding placement disruptions in order to identify the main issues of concern and to derive lessons to inform practice. Postal questionnaires containing both quantitative and qualitative questions were sent to supervising social workers, field social workers and foster parents involved in the 36 non-kinship foster placement disruptions that occurred from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2011 in one Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland. In total, 107 questionnaires were sent out and the overall response rate was 62%. Multiple factors were involved in the disruptions, with the child's behaviour and contact with birth family being the greatest concerns, followed by attachment issues. Disruptions were more prevalent for adolescent placements, placements of less than one year duration and “new” foster parents. Views on communication between professionals and foster parents were generally encouraging. In the majority of cases the disruption was thought likely to have occurred even if any additional supports that could be envisaged could have been provided. Recommendations for practice include enhanced supervision and support for new foster parents, activity to value foster parents, the recording of disruption data, and development of a behaviour management training plan.
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Keywords: Children in State Care; Foster Care; Foster Parents; Looked-after Children; Northern Ireland Survey

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 3, 2014

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