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Vania S. Pinto, REES Centre, Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK

The voice of young people in care: Perspectives on successful foster placements

In certain family contexts, the wellbeing and safety of children and young people are not safeguarded. These conditions impose the use of alternative responses to ensure their best interests. Therefore, foster families are particularly important in an integrated approach to the rights of children and young people in order to promote their development. Knowing what makes a ‘successful’ foster placement can aid in the design and use of instruments that purport to measure foster carers’ skills and potential. The main goal of this paper is therefore to understand how ‘successful’ foster placements are defined by young people in care. To pursue this goal, focus groups were carried out with young people in England through a Children in Care Council and in Portugal with the cooperation of the research group InEd, «Contact in foster care: patterns, results and management models» project. Young people were asked to reflect about ‘placement success’ and to analyse the salience of items from the Casey Foster Applicant Inventory (Cuddeback, Buehler, Orme, & Le Prohn, 2007; Orme, Cuddeback, Buehler, Cox, & Le Prohn, 2006), an instrument designed to measure the qualities of foster carers and thought to be linked to fostering potential. Content analysis of the data collected in the focus groups was conducted, based on a manifest and latent content analysis. A comparison of results from the two countries allows us to identify some common characteristics that were highlighted by both groups, as well as differences between contexts. These characteristics will be discussed in relation to the Casey Foster Applicant Inventory, including an evaluation of the potential for further use of this instrument in assessing new applicants to foster care.

Keywords: Foster families, Children and young people, Placement success

This paper is part of a doctoral programme, under the supervision of Professor Judy Sebba and Dr Nikki Luke.