Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Andrew Guilfoyle

Second Advisor

Dr Margaret Simms

Abstract

Foster children are showing a higher prevalence of maladaptive physical and psychosocial issues than ever before. The presence of these issues is predictive of foster placement instability, which is compounded by the inability to recruit and retain foster carers. As placement disruption can have numerous consequences, the factors that influence placement stability have been reviewed. Carer strain is a widespread destabilizing factor, which is augmented by many factors including the perceived level of practical and emotional support from both formal and informal networks. Formal support is linked to placement stability, although carers generally feel undervalued and unappreciated by formal networks. Alternatively, informal networks enhance carer psychosocial wellbeing and improve placement stability. However from the literature reviewed, there appear to be a limited understanding of the influence that both formal and informal support networks have on a foster carers' ability to provide a nurturing foster home. The number of children in foster care has increased significantly, which is compounded by the inability to recruit and retain carers. Previous research has shown that formal and informal support can improve carer retention, although little research has explored this in Australia. The present study used a phenomenological approach with seven carers through semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis indicated that carers derived satisfaction from fostering, although this was hindered by child behaviour and biological parents. Carers also felt unsupported and unappreciated by formal networks, which manifested through issues such as: inadequate child-information, irregular contact, exclusion from decision-making and unacknowledged attachments during placement termination. With informal support, carers described feeling socially restricted and often received criticism, although some carers received positive responses from informal networks, and emphasised the need for contact with other carers. These findings highlight the importance of formal and informal support in reducing carer strain and improving carer retention.

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