The emotional experience of short–term foster carers when foster children leave their care
Herbst, Michelle Jacqueline.
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The researcher has worked in the field of foster care in social work for a few years in Ireland and England and during this time has seen that foster carers experience some kind of grief and loss when children leave their care. The researcher wanted to explore the emotional experience of foster carers when foster children leave their care. The aim of this study was to explore the emotional experience of short–term foster carers when foster children leave their care. This research aim resulted in the following research question: “What is the emotional experience of short–term foster carers when foster children leave their care?” The researcher used a conceptual framework that focused on the Gestalt approach and foster care as background to the empirical study. A qualitative approach was used to address the research question. A case study strategy was used to explore and describe the experience of short–term foster carers when foster children leave their care. A non–probability purposive sampling technique was used and the population consisted of short–term foster carers in Oxfordshire, England, working with children in foster care. A total of nine participants took part in the study. Semi–structured one–to–one interviews were used to obtain accurate and reliable evidence of the emotional experience of foster carers when foster children leave their care. An interview schedule was used for the semi–structured interviews, which was derived from the literature review. The interview data was then transcribed and analysed. The six themes that were identified are (1) the general emotions of foster carers when children leave their care, (2) the difficulty foster carers experience to cope when a child leaves their care, (3) the experience of contact with a foster child when the child has moved on, (4) concerns that foster carers have when a foster child leaves their care, (5) the support experienced when a foster child moves on, and (6) the foster carers’ own children’s emotional experience when children v in care leave their care. From the data analysis sub–themes were identified under the main themes and were discussed according to the literature review. Conclusions were drawn for each of the six themes and sub–themes that were identified. The researcher concluded and recommended that more support, guidance, advice and input are needed for foster carers after a child leaves their care. The foster carer needs to have more of a voice and must be seen as an invaluable part of the multi–disciplinary fostering team. Improvements in the fostering system are needed to improve the emotional experience of the foster carers, but also to ultimately improve the retention of foster carers within the foster care system.
- Humanities