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Cinzia Canali & Tiziano Vecchiato, Fondazione Zancan, Italy

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The development of Foster care during the crisis: challenges for foster families and social workers

We aim to consider two different studies completed in Italy:

  1. the first one describes research conducted in a Province of the region Lombardy (northern Italy)
  2. the second one is a nationwide survey with social workers.

The presentation will focus on the findings emerged from the analysis of two groups of “stakeholders”: foster families and social workers.

Foster families. We will describe the characteristics of foster families and their life stories, their family structure, their motivation to become foster carers and their experience. We will also consider their perception about this experience and its impact on daily family life. After this experience, are they willing to undergo other foster care placements? How to build on their experience to further develop foster care at local level?

Social workers. We will consider a nationwide survey with social workers. Usually “foster care” is provided after an assessment of problems inside the family, mainly related to parents’ competences in taking care of their children. Usually this is the reason for starting foster care and other interventions. In this survey we aimed to address the following question: to what extent does the activation of services also depend on poverty and deprivation? The national survey highlighted the existence of a link between poverty and foster care in Italy, as suggested by social workers who responded to the survey. Both studies provide relevant insights that need to be better explored in order to understand the future development of foster care, especially at a time of limited funding, increased poverty and fragility among families.

Keywords: research, foster families, social workers, poverty