Towards a more comprehensive concept of support: belonging and recognition

Claire Cameron, Researcher, UCL Institute of Education, UK 

Hanan Hauari, Researcher, UCL Institute of Education, UK

The English policy commitment to permanency for children in care is preferably achieved via adoption or return home. Foster care exists as a temporary, emergency, short stay, specialist or long term prelude to permanency or alternative placement. The average length of foster placement is 152 days and more than a third of children have two or more placements in any one year in care. This context places foster carers in the difficult position of promoting children’s ‘belonging’ in order to develop or maintain their emotional security (Schofield et al, 2012; Boddy, 2013) while the structural conditions of their work are often working in the opposite direction. One of the structural conditions for foster care is the support they receive as members of the ‘team around the child’ from social workers and others. Research has shown that foster carers believe that  better support  and a more professional partnership with social workers would help them to improve the lives of children they care for (Lawson and Cann 2017).  Drawing on data from a Jacobs Foundation funded Swiss-German-English study of foster care breakdown, we analyse English foster carers’ experiences and perceptions of support for their work, as shown in trajectories of breakdown. From the perspective of foster carers, professional support is largely absent in times of difficulties/crisis leading to placement instability and social workers feel they are limited in the support they can provide. We argue that if belonging is a critical ingredient in placement stability then much more attention needs to be given to the ways in which foster carers are, and perceive themselves to be, supported in their roles and tasks. We turn to Honneth’s tri-partite concept of recognition to offer a more comprehensive analytic framework for foster care support.

Key-words: belonging, foster care support, recognition,

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