“Emotional Triangle”: Experience of Foster Parents in Their Relationship with Non-relative Foster Child and Biological Family

Ramuné Bagdonait-Stelmokien, PhD student, university Lithuania

Vytautas Magnus, university Lithuania 

The paper sets out to discuss the experience of non-relative foster parents as reflected in their relationship with a foster child and a child’s biological family. It presents the results of the qualitative research. The chosen analysis strategy is a constructive grounded theory developed by Charmaz (2006, 2008). Eight narrative interviews with foster parents (4 men and 4 women) raising their biological children and fostering non-relative children for a period longer than one year were conducted. The study found that the acceptance of a non-relative child as part of the family poses a number of challenges, which are also accompanied by joy, a sense of community and the experience of giving. This experience changes the life of the whole family, but it also nurtures them and enhances their consciousness for the new parenthood and motherhood. By fully accepting a non-relative child to be a part of their family, foster parents must also accept the child’s biological family, history and origins. The phenomenon of acceptance is perceived as the expansion of the borders of one’s life to embrace the borders of another person by fully incorporating them into one’s life. The experience of acceptance drives foster parents into the so called “emotional triangle”, i.e. the experience of relationships related to a foster family, a foster child and a child’s biological family. Foster parents realise that it is important for a foster child to keep in contact with his/her family, even though a problematic one. They have an important task to accomplish – to help a foster child to restore the relationship with his/her family (usually, a mother) by unconditionally giving themselves and not underestimating or changing a child’s natural family. It is an acute, emotionally painful and often dramatic point for all the actors in the fostering process. This experience is a continuous process of learning which takes place through challenges and trials as well as the lessons which foster parents have to learn.

Key-words: Acceptance, biological parents, foster care, relationship

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