The Extent of Stability and Relational Permanence Achieved for Young Children in Care in Northern Ireland

Dominic Mc Sherry, Montserrat Fargas Malet

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Placement stability is sought for children who enter care and need a place to call home. This is deemed to be necessary for the formation and continuation of secure and loving relationships with parents and carers. However, the term placement stability does not capture the quality of the placement or the subjective experience of the young person. In contrast, the term relational permanence denotes an enduring and supportive relationship between a young person and a caring adult. Research studies have tended to focus on placement stability, or legal and physical permanence, and overlook relational permanence. Within the current study, we found high levels of long-term placement stability for the study population, 354 young people who were under five and in care in Northern Ireland on the 31st March 2000. Placements for those who were adopted, on Residence Order, and rehabilitated with birth parents were more likely to be stable than those in long-term foster care and kinship foster care. However, early interview data with 30 young people and/or their parents/carers revealed high levels of relational permanence, irrespective of placement type, and that placement disruption did not necessarily mean a breakdown in the relationship. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
JournalChildren Australia
Issue numberSpecial Issue 2
Early online date15 May 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Jun 2018


  • foster care
  • adoption
  • adolescents


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