Foster families and adoptions

Philippe Fabry, PhD student, Université Paris Nanterre, France 

Vera Fahlberg, in training guides for British social workers, stressed the importance of explaining to children in foster care the roles of the three types of parents who may be present in their lives: biological, legal and educational parents. In France such work is problematic, as the parental role of the foster parent, appointed as « family assistant », is the subject of a strong denial (Gérard Neyrand). For anthropologists this denial is linked to the exclusivity of filiation (a child must have only a father and a mother), which puts the three modes of kinship (« blood, name, daily life Florence Weber) in competition rather than in alliance (S. Lallemand). Unique in the West, the professionalization of family assistants (with a state diploma in social work, DEAF) can be considered an anti-adoptive device. Yet the issue of adoption is a massive issue for foster families. In a doctoral research I interviewed 9 family assistants, from eight different departments, for professional life stories. At the heart of these stories, twenty situations are mentioned and the question of adoption arises in half of the cases, either brutally, or as a long-term project or as a temptation. But different types of adoption are mentioned. I present a typology based on a distinction between two main categories, substitutive adoption (plenary adoption), and suppletive adoptions: simple adoption; adoptions integrating the child in a kinship (sponsorship, grandparenting, avuncular kinship).

Key-words : Foster care ; adoption ; professionalization ; kinship ; Parenting »

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