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Claire Cameron, University College London

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Towards a theory of upbringing for children in foster care in Europe

Across Europe, foster care is the preferred intervention for children who cannot live with their birth families, yet just what states look for from foster care is rarely articulated. Its use and intended purpose can reflect historical peculiarities but also the nature of the welfare regime existing in a particular country. This presentation reports on a preliminary exploration of fostering across 11 European countries, reflecting different care and education traditions. Irrespective of variations in history and welfare ideology, and any specialist tasks, foster care, by its nature, fulfils elements of what might be described as an upbringing role on behalf of society, in a family environment. What is meant by upbringing and how might it be theorised? This session will take first steps towards a theory of upbringing for foster care, drawing on the work of the German social pedagogue, Klaus Mollenhauer, who believed that upbringing is ‘passing on valued cultural heritage’ and is constituted through intergenerational everyday, habitual, social practices that evolve and change over time (Shove et al. 2012). A theory of upbringing in contemporary families also needs to take into account the standpoint (Mayall 2002) of young people. This presentation will argue that an elaborated theory of upbringing holds the promise of a better understanding of the relationships foster care families and looked after children depend on for successful placements: what we might tentatively refer to as a ‘negotiated upbringing’.

Keywords: upbringing, foster care, agency, social practice, Mollenhauer