A Phenomenological Study of Foster Caregivers' Experiences of Formal and Informal Support

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Cavazzi, T. F., Guilfoyle, A. , & Sims, M. (2011). A phenomenological study of foster caregivers' experiences of formal and informal support. Illinois Child Welfare, 5(1), 125-141. Available here


In recent years the number of children in foster care has increased significantly, and the inability to recruit and retain caregivers has resulted in considerable pressure. International research has shown that formal and informal support can improve caregiver retention, but it is unclear how this applies in the Australian context. The present study used a phenomenological approach, undertaking semistructured interviews with seven caregivers in western Australia. Thematic analysis indicated that caregivers derived satisfaction from fostering, although this was diminished by undesirable child behavior and unpleasant interactions with biological parents. Caregivers also felt unsupported and unappreciated by formal networks, identifying issues such as inadequate information regarding children, irregular contact, exclusion from decisionmaking, and unacknowledged attachments during placement termination. Within their informal support networks, caregivers described feeling socially restricted and criticized, although some caregivers reported a positive response from informal networks. These findings highlight the importance of formal and informal support in reducing caregiver strain and improving caregiver retention.