Placement stability is sought for children who enter state care and need a place to call home. The research literature has very much focused on looking at placement stability (or physical permanence), and how to avoid placement moves and breakdowns. Adoption has been found more likely to achieve a greater degree of stability than other long-term placements, such as foster care or kinship foster care. However, the notion of placement stability does not consider the young person’s subjective perspective and thus the quality of the placement, while the concept of relational permanence does. Relational permanence conveys an enduring positive relationship between a young person and a caring adult. Very little is known about what happens after children move out of long-term placements. Does their feeling of belonging to that family disappear when the child moves out? The Northern Ireland Care Pathways and Outcomes Study is a longitudinal study that has been following all the children who were in care on 31st March 2000 and under 5 years old. Three waves of the study have been completed to date, and Wave 4 (2016-2019) data collection is ongoing. The study is looking at a range of issues across placement types (i.e. adoption, foster care, kinship care, returning to birth parents, or Residence Order). This paper will focus on the issues of placement stability and emotional/relational permanence. This will involve examining placement stability for the 354 young people across the different types of placements; but also the circumstances of some breakdowns/disruptions; some of the young people’s sense of belonging and being part of the family; and their parents’/carers’ feelings of bonding to them. On the one hand, we found high levels of placement stability for the 354 young people in our study, although those who were adopted and placed under a Residence Order appeared more likely to remain in the same caregivers’ home than young people in foster care and kinship care did. On the other hand, interviews with 43 of the young people (now aged 18-23) and/or their parents/carers revealed high levels of relational permanence, and showed that placement disruption did not necessarily mean a breakdown in the relationship. In fact, in all but one of the placements that disrupted when the young person was between 12 and 17, the young person-carers relationship endured over the years, and their feelings of belonging remained. Our findings have clear implications in terms of policy and practice. Social Services should begin to apply a more relational than structural lens when placing children who have been removed from the care of their birth parents. They could focus more on the importance of maintaining relationships rather than structural issues such as placement stability. For example, a child can leave a placement in the teens and maintain a great relationship with carers, but another may remain in a placement but never communicate with their carers. Social Services need to get children into an appropriate long-term placement as soon as possible, and support long-term placements, as the relationships formed are likely to persist and provide the children with a family for life, or another family for life, even it the placement breaks down in the teens.
|Conference||15th Conference of the European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents 2018|
|Abbreviated title||EUSARF 2018|
|Period||2/10/18 → 5/10/18|
- Foster care
- Kinship foster care
- Residence Order
- Return home