'Without the support of my family, I couldn’t do the job': Foster-carers’ perspectives on informal supports in the role

Laura Butler, Emma McGinnis

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Abstract

Fostering agencies face increasing challenges recruiting and retaining foster carers while the number of children requiring foster placements continues to rise annually. This Northern Ireland study used qualitative methods with 11 foster carers to understand: if they had any expectation of support from family and friends in the role; and where this was available, whether it promoted their resilience in continuing as foster carers. Most foster carers in the study reported experiencing positive input from family, with a few exceptions. Carers’ adult children were considered particularly helpful, with some becoming advocates for fostering. While a number of the carers experienced good support from friends, a clear understanding of the fostering role at critical times, including during the carers’ life stages, was key to the experience of support from both family or friends. All participating foster carers were female. Implications for practice include examining opportunities for developing and facilitating the support potential of adult children, extended family and friends. These could include focused information and tailored training, together with creative user-led approaches for organisations to harness this under-utilised yet fundamental support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-282
Number of pages18
JournalAdoption & Fostering Journal
Volume45
Issue number3
Early online date25 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Foster carers
  • Northern Ireland
  • adaptation
  • family and friends
  • informal networks
  • peer support
  • recruitment
  • resilience
  • retention

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