Processes Leading to Foster Care Breakdown

Thomas Gabriel, Researcher,  ZHAW Department of Social Work, Institute of Childhood, Youth and Familiy, Switzerland 

Renate Stohler, Researcher, ZHAW Department of Social Work, Institute of Childhood, Youth and Familiy, Switzerland 

Bombach Clara, Researcher ZHAW Department of Social Work, Institute of Childhood, Youth and Familiy, Switzerland  

Processes leading to breakdown of foster care are very diverse, complex and assumed to be highly individual. In order to understand them better the international research project on “Foster Care Placement Breakdown” discusses them within a model of interdependencies on different levels (Wolf 2016). A multi-perspective reconstruction of processes from the perspectives of different involved actors is at the heart of studying breakdown, in order to understand the highly interactive process. Therefore, breakdown is not seen as the “antithesis of stability” (Backe-Hansen 2010) and not as a static moment where everything falls apart. The presentation aims at outlining and modelling processes leading to breakdown from the foster child’s, the foster parents’ and the professionals supports point of view when looking back to the time when the process leading to foster care breakdown came to place. We will discuss their way of producing subjective meaning and show the factors named by them. We therefore enhance our discussion about the following topics: self-perception, belonging, mismatching of expectations and different strategies in processes leading to placement instability.  The findings discussed in the presentation are results of an ongoing research project titled “Foster Care Placement Breakdown” at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland, in cooperation with the University of London, England and the University of Siegen in Germany. The project is still ongoing and the paper will present first results. The results are based on quantitative case file analysis and qualitative interviews with foster parents, foster children and social workers after breakdown, so the actors perspective is one focus of the study. The scrutinized questions are: What are the influences (micro, meso and macro) that increase or reduce the risk of foster care breakdown? What are the different typologies of breakdown processes? What are the turning points for interventions in the processes leading to breakdowns? The aims of the research project are to generate and transfer knowledge to stabilise foster care placements, maximise international learning, identify factors associated with breakdown, understand processes leading to breakdown by a multi-perspective-reconstruction and draw conclusions from international comparison. Implication for practice will be discussed as a conclusion of the presentation.

Key-words : Placement Stability, Placement Disruption, Foster Care Placement Breakdown

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