Continuities and discontinuities in the transition from a short-term foster family to a long-term family

Mary Beek, Researcher, University of East Anglia, UK 

Gillian  Schofield, Researcher University of East Anglia, UK 

Elsbeth Neil, Researcher University of East Anglia, UK

The transition from a short-term foster family to a long-term family carries risks as well as benefits.  Children who are already vulnerable from earlier losses must be separated from foster carers who have usually become loved and trusted primary caregivers. There is some evidence to suggest that difficult transitions may be associated with unsettled long-term placements and sometimes disruption of these placements (Selwyn et al, 2015).    This paper reports on the first phase of a project which aims to promote protective factors during transitions through the implementation of an evidence-based practice programme.  The programme has been developed from a literature review of the evidence, focus groups with foster carers and adoptive parents, and formal consultations with all relevant parties. The implementation process is being evaluated.   There will be a focus on the role of short term caregivers, before, during and after transitions.  This role is complex, since the carer must provide emotional warmth and a secure base for the child while simultaneously promoting the development of trust and security in the new family.  Continuity of caregiving experiences for the child must be balanced with the new caregivers’ needs to parent the child and revise their family identity to fully include the child.  The importance of the short-term caregiver providing physical and/or emotional availability after the move and their ongoing significance as part of the child’s life story will also be highlighted.   The process of implementing a flexible, child-centred framework to support positive transitions, with a view to further evaluation, will be outlined.

Selwyn J, Meakings S and Wijedasa D (2015) Beyond the adoption order,  London: Coram. BAAF

Key-words: Transitions, short-term foster care, long-term care, practice programme

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