Managing loss and a threatened identity: Experiences of parents of children growing up in foster care, the perspectives of their social workers and implications for practice

Gillian Schofield, Bente Moldestad, Ingrid Höjer, Emma Ward, Dag Skilbred, Julie Young, Toril Havik

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88 Citations (Scopus)


Parents of children growing up in foster-care have been a largely neglected group in policy, practice and research, in spite of the fact that these parents are often vulnerable adults who experience a profound loss and a threat to their identity. Parents' involvement through contact is also likely to have an impact on children's stability and security in the foster family. This article draws on data from parallel qualitative studies at the University of East Anglia, England, the University of Bergen, Norway, and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Interviews and focus groups with parents showed a great deal of similarity in the situation experienced by parents in the three countries. But all three studies found great diversity in how parents managed their loss and their threatened identity over time, including varied strategies for managing cognitive dissonance. What parents shared was the need to be treated by social workers with respect and empathy; to receive information about the children; and to be involved, where possible, in the children's lives. Focus groups with social workers, who had to balance the needs of children and parents, found there was a need for guidance in this difficult work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74–92
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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