guide 3: Fostering - Children's views
there are some difficulties with researching children’s views, we can be fairly
confident about the general findings, which are true for many children.
Children want different things to suit their individual circumstances, but they
family life, and not to feel ‘different’
relations with their birth families
why they’re in care, and to have an explanation ready
to be listened
to about where they want to be, and to have an element of control
to be valued,
respected, encouraged (for example, at school) and to be appreciated for
exceptions, foster children generally feel positive about being in foster care.
children want to enjoy an ‘ordinary’ family life in their foster family. Ask
them and yourself if they are being made to feel different and how you can
overcome this together.
how you arrange reviews, meetings, contact and everyday events like medical
Offer to help
children work out an explanation that they can give to school and friends about
their current family situation.
how you can help children feel listened to, empowered and in control of their
own lives. Ask them the same questions too.
how you can help children maintain relations with their birth families.
children in their pursuits and ask them if they are getting enough
encouragement from elsewhere.
whether the children you are working with feel valued, respected and loved and
think about what you can do to promote these positive feelings.
What we know from research
children what they want
important to find out what children think about foster care. Many researchers
have conducted studies about children’s views, but do they really represent the
views of children in care (4)?
children and young people may not feel free to say what they really think: for
example, they may be worried about upsetting their foster carers and birth
Some studies have had a low response rate and in general it is often easier to
find out the views of teenagers and children in permanent foster care than
those of younger children and children in temporary care (7),
In spite of
these reservations, when children are consulted very similar themes emerge and
we can be fairly confident that the views described below are true for the
great majority of children (9).
Because of their individual circumstances children and young people do not want
exactly the same things, but in the research studies referred to above, they
all report similar general needs and wishes.
children foster care can be a good experience most of the time. Research
studies show (3)
that a sizeable majority of children valued being in care, did not want to
return to their birth families, and did not think that being in care was the
reason for their difficulties.
children not to feel different
living in foster care want to feel that they have an ordinary family life. They
do not like anything that marks them out as different (10).
For example, they do not like statutory reviews interfering in normal life or
being conducted in a place that may affect their privacy, such as at school or
in the foster family home (9),
relations with birth families
fostered children want to retain a relationship with their birth family and
nearly all worry about not seeing their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.
Many feel that the relationship they have with brothers and sisters can
represent what is best about their family. Additionally, many children worry
about their birth families while they are away: some children think that their
relationship with their own family is threatened by their relationship with
their foster family (7),
them understand and explain why they are in care
children are worried about the reasons why they came into care and how long
they are likely to be there. One study (16)
shows that about two thirds of children do not know and understand why they
entered care in the first place. Trying to produce an account of what has happened
which can then be explained to others, particularly at school, preoccupies many
children. There is also evidence that children have to accept the reason
themselves, otherwise placements are more likely to break down (17).
to where they want to be
children and young people want the same things, but they all want to be
listened to and to feel that they have choice and control (7),
Children do not like being moved suddenly and they want to be involved in their
own care planning (7),
We also know from research (3)
that if children are not happy in a placement and are unmotivated to make it
work, it will probably break down. If they cannot be where they want to be,
they appreciate an explanation of the options.
respect, encourage and appreciate children
need to feel that:
individual qualities are appreciated and that they are loved for themselves
they are an
equal member of the foster family
encouraged and given the opportunity to do well at school and in other pursuits
individuality, choices and privacy are respected, particularly for older
relationship between foster carers’ own children and fostered children
has found a generally favourable relationship between foster carers‘ own
children and fostered children. If there is serious conflict of interest
between the two groups of children, or if the carer feels that their own
children may be at risk in any way, most foster carers will put the needs of
their own children first. This can make foster children feel that they are
treated less favourably and trigger a downward spiral, which may result in
placement breakdown. It is important to recognise this and intervene early.
children feel positive about their foster family
foster children generally feel positive about their care and nearly
three-quarters of looked after children thought that being looked-after had
been a ‘good idea’ (7),