Family relations, contact and well being in Portuguese Foster Care

Delgado Paulo, Researcher, Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico do Porto (ESEP), Portugal

João M. S. Carvalho, Researcher, CICS.NOVA.UMinho, InED-Escola Superior de Educação do Porto, UNICES-Instituto Universitário da Maia, Portugal.

Vânia S. Pinto. InED, Researcher, Escola Superior de Educação do Porto / REES Centre, Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK.

This study investigates the complexities and challenges associated with contact for children in foster care. Does contact always have positive effects on the well-being and stability of the foster child? Does contact influence the integration and success of the placement? Is the frequency, duration and location of visits adequate? Are foster families considered by professionals as partners in planning and organizing the contact? What are the possibilities and risks of contact via technologies, such as social networks and electronic mail? We try to find answers to these questions, in order to rethink the organization of contact and to improve the supervision of each placement. Method: Data were collected from 212 foster children in full-time foster family care. Carers were asked to complete a questionnaire, providing similar information as professionals have done about the same sample. Results: The majority of the children (71.2%) had contact with their birth family. Hapiness and wellbeing during and after visits is the major result, but contact does not influence significantly the outcomes of foster care, wich is sucessefully considered in 2/3 of the placements. The level of disagreement between carers and professionals is significant. Conclusions: This study indicates that it is essential to improve the communication between foster carers and professionals, and that they should work as a team. Training processes can contribute to improve relational skills and management processes.  It is also important to develop a more attentive and available work with the parents, to support the recovery of parental competences.

Keywords : Foster care, contact, children’s wellbeing


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