Matching in foster care: Review of the evidence and primary research with children, carers, and social workers in England

Ellie Ott, Researcher, University of Oxford, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, UK/USA 

This presentation will focus on matching as the connecting of children in care and foster families. The definition used here includes the decision-making process to pair together children and foster families as well as the process of placing children into that household. Matching thus sits at the intersection of continuity and disruption. It is a process that provides a continuity of care and information while simultaneously disrupting the child and households through a placement move.  First, the presentation reports findings from a UK literature review and international scoping review on matching in foster care, which expands upon the review by Keijlmans et al. (2016) to incorporate studies of children in care’s reports of the matching process as well as some more recent studies. The current literature indicates that placements are often unplanned and not child-centred.  Next, the presentation covers findings from primary research done by the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford in partnership with Fostering People, an independent fostering agency, and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council in England. The research uses thematic analysis (in NVivo) to analyse interviews and focus groups with young people in care, care leavers, foster carers, and social workers. It explores their perceptions of their experiences, usefulness of the information provided during matching, and suggestions to improve the matching process. In particular, research findings highlight conflicting beliefs in crucial elements to the matching process (e.g. visits and young people’s choice) and the important role of ‘chemistry’ between child and the household (Sinclair & Wilson, 2003).

References :

Sinclair, I., & Wilson, K. (2003). Matches and mismatches: The contribution of carers and children to the success of foster placements. British Journal of Social Work, 33(7), 871-884.

Zeijlmans, K., López, M., Grietens, H., & Knorth, E. J. (2016). Matching children with foster carers: A literature review. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 257-265.

Key-words: matching, placement, child experience, social work practice

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