A Kind of Loving:
The Children's Accounts
So far we have described, as it were, the bare bones of fostering–the basic characteristics of the sample, the plans made for them and so on. For the rest of the book we will be concerned with outcomes and with what might be done to improve them–in short, with support as broadly defined.
In order to assess the effects of support we needed to understand what would have happened if it had not been offered. This required us to list the factors which might affect outcome, and develop hypotheses on the way these would operate. We could then test the resulting model statistically.
We based our model on four main sources: the literature on foster care, ideas thrown up by our preliminary analysis, the questionnaires returned by the foster children and the accounts of carers and social workers. This chapter deals with the material from the children's questionnaires.1
Our focus is on the written material provided by children in these questionnaires. We have two main questions. First, what are the aspects of foster care that the children emphasise? Second, what would they like to see happen –what recommendations do they make?
Answers to these questions bear on the model we are trying to create. The aspects of foster care which the children chose to describe both help to define what counts as an outcome and to identify what leads to it. For example, if children emphasise the degree to which the carers are able to convey they love them, this, at least for some children, is a key 'outcome' of foster care. It is also likely to influence the way they behave and for this reason too needs to be