Unheard Voices: The Views and Experiences of Foster Carer's Own Children
Smith, Phillip Thomas
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In the UK it has been reported that as many as 87,000 children and young people are cared for by the Local Authorities on any given day (Sutton and Stack, 2012). With an increasing demand to ensure that foster care is provided for those who need it most, there is an even greater demand for research to further understand the unique context of the fostering experience. The work of Younes and Harp (2007) highlight that the voices of the foster carer's own children are often unheard despite the valid contribution they give to the fostering experience. This finding is surprising; as a reason commonly cited for quitting foster care is the affect it may have on the foster carer's own children (Farmer et al., 2004; Twigg and Swan, 2007). Aim: The aim of this study is to explore the views and experiences of foster carer's own children, in relation to how they cope with and manage the challenges throughout the fostering experience. Method: A qualitative design of semi-structured interviews was used to obtain data. Interviews were conducted with six individuals whose parents had fostered for a period of at least one year during which they were living at home. Data was analysed using Thematic Analysis. Results: Four themes were uncovered from the data: 'Family Dynamics: Age, Agreement and Management', 'Positive Experiences vs. Negative Experiences', 'Empathy' and 'Placement Endings'. Conclusion: The dynamics of the fostering household was found to be the strongest influence in terms of how the children of foster carers approach and manage the fostering experience. They recognised the potential conflict between both positive and negative issues when living with foster children; however they displayed a strong empathetic frame of mind towards their foster siblings, own siblings and parents. Placement endings were found to be the most difficult period within the fostering experience during which foster carer's children experienced emotions such as sadness and guilt. Future research should explore these issues further in relation to their effect on the children of foster carers.
B.Sc. (Hons) Psychology
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