“We are caregivers, too”. Foster siblings’ difficulties, strengths and needs for support

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Background and purpose Children’s foster care is practiced and studied in many parts of the world, but little attention is paid to foster parents’ birth children, despite their right to participate in a process that concerns their lives and despite the role they play in foster care. Italian law provides a kind of ‘order of preference’ to be followed when placing a child in foster care. The first choice is ‘a family, preferably with children’. The second choice is a single person, and the last choice is children’s homes. One could therefore expect foster parents’ sons and daughters to be carefully considered, since they are explicitly named in the law; however, this is not so. The national and regional laws and Foster Units Official Guidelines contain no indication of foster parents’ birth children. This may be linked to the sceptical attitude of Italian social services professionals regarding the participation of children. As far as we know, this is the first research about Italian foster siblings. The purposes were to explore the experiences of sons and daughters of foster parents, and to draw on their views in order to grasp how their satisfaction in foster care processes could be improved Methods The data were gathered from 15 birth children, from 6 to 19 years old, and 14 foster parents. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcribed and processed through a thematic analysis. The birth children were asked four questions, about their experience and their suggestions. Children under ten were asked to make a drawing about foster care, and the interview was conducted based on their spontaneous narratives about their sketches. Results Birth children considered themselves as caregivers and “active part of the foster care”, and they explained in detail the ways in which they helped: to collaborate in everyday life; to advocate for their foster sibling or to mediate between them and other people, such as family friends, schoolmates, or relatives; to not create problems for parents and to accept their choices. The richness of the suggestions from the birth children is evidence of their remarkable level of thoughtfulness regarding their foster care experience. Birth children felt they received little consideration from social workers. This contrast with data from the interviews with their parents. But social workers were attentive to children well-being, but not to their caregiver role, so they did not feel that they were perceived as part of the foster team. Conclusions and implications In Italy, there is still a way to make birth children fully active parts of foster care. They need help and guidance to decide not only whether the family is available to foster but also to choose whether and how to take on caregiving tasks. Keeping in mind the caregiver role that some birth children choose to take on is important in order to reinforce the positive elements that the foster care experience can offer them and therefore also to protect their well-being and resilience.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospite8th European Conference for Social Work Research. Book of Abstracts
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2018
EventoEuropean Conference for Social Work Research - Edinburgh
Durata: 18 apr 201820 apr 2018


ConvegnoEuropean Conference for Social Work Research


  • caregiving
  • ethics of care
  • foster care
  • foster siblings
  • social work


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