Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Does Emotional Resilience Enhance Foster Placement Stability? A Qualitative Investigation

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Does Emotional Resilience Enhance Foster Placement Stability? A Qualitative Investigation

Article excerpt

Abstract

Frequent changes of foster placement are known to have a detrimental effect on the long-term well-being of cared-for children. Foster carers who take on children with challenging behaviours have to draw on resources, both internal and external, to help them build and maintain a relationship with the child that will last. Not all foster carers are successful in this regard. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the role that the emotional resilience of foster carers plays in promoting placement stability.

Seven foster carers, who had a track-record of stable placements (according to national criteria) with children exhibiting challenging behaviours, were recruited from a Local Authority in the North East of England. They attended a focus group and one-to-one interview. Verbatim transcripts were subjected to an inductive grounded theory analysis.

Three potential underlying constructs, namely emotional resilience, interpersonal characteristics and external factors, were found to emerge from the data and identified as likely to influence foster placement outcomes. These data provide a springboard for further quantitative investigation with the potential to screen prospective carers to identify those best suited to "difficult" placements in order to maximise success for the benefit of all concerned.

Keywords: emotional resilience, foster carers, placement stability

1. Introduction

Large numbers of children in England are looked after by foster carers, with the majority of children entering the care system as a result of abuse and neglect ("Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2010," 2010). Many children in care have emotional and behavioural difficulties and present with challenging behaviours; resulting in frequent moves between care placements. A number of factors contribute to placement stability, but of these, the role of the foster carer is of interest here. Why do some foster carers cope in the face of difficult, challenging behaviours whereas others do not?

One possibility is that foster carers draw on emotional resilience in order to maintain the fostering relationship in the face of challenging behaviours exhibited by the child. The research literature identifies two theoretical constructs in this domain. Ego-resiliency is conceptualised as a personality trait which is employed to regulate ego-control, the expression or inhibition of impulse. Resilient individuals are able to modulate their level of ego-control according to the situation, thus resulting in positive adaptation (Funder, Block, & Block, 1983; Letzring, Block, & Funder, 2005). An alternative construct is resilience; a concept attributed to individuals who, in the face of adverse, stressful situations, have positive psychological outcomes (Rutter, 2006). This model of resilience is rooted in adverse childhood experiences that lead to the development of dynamic psychological processes and positive adaptation (Werner, 1993). As such it is conceived as being different to ego-resiliency (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). However, Block and Kremen (1996) assert that resilience can be entirely accommodated within ego-resiliency. In the study reported here, there was no pre-conception of "emotional resilience" being wholly attributable to either ego-resiliency or resilience.

Placement stability is used as a measure of successful foster placements; nationally it is defined by the number and duration of placements: fewer than three placements in a year (1 April to 31 March) and a placement duration of two years for foster children who were in care for at least 2 ½ years ("National Indicators for Local Authorities and Local Authority Partnerships: Updated National Indicator Definitions," 2009). In the year to March 2010, nationally 10.9% of foster children had been in three or more placements and 32% who had been in care for 2 ½ years had been in a placement lasting less than two years ("Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2010," 2010). …

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