Vânia S. Pinto, PhD student, InED, REES Centre, Department of Education, University of Oxford, England
As part of the alternative placement process, foster carers play an important role by contributing to the integration of looked after children into a family environment, and promoting their wellbeing and development. The main aim of this research project is to understand which are the key attributes of foster carers that are associated with ‘successful’ foster placements. As a pilot study, 19 focus groups were conducted with supervising social workers, foster carers, care leavers, and young people in care across England and Portugal. In the main study, two large, nationally representative samples of foster carers, along with their supervising social workers, were asked to fill out a set of four questionnaires, namely the Casey Foster Applicant Inventory Instrument, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Child-Carer Relationship Scale, and the Carer and Placement Questionnaire. Based on the voices of the stakeholders, and giving particular importance to the voices of young people in care, it was possible to determine that the most important attributes of foster carers were the ones associated with their parenting role, and that placement success can be defined through the emotional, social and behavioural outcomes of looked after children, and placement stability. Examining the surveys’ findings, several associations between the parenting and professional attributes of foster carers and the outcomes and progress of looked after children were identified. It is expected that the tested standardised questionnaires will be useful in future for the selection and training process of foster carers. Implications for practice will be discussed.
Key-words: Foster care, Foster carers’ attributes, Placement success