Foster Families: Characteristics,
Reactions to Child and Approach
of Main Carer
Our model suggests that foster carers have a major influence on outcomes. On this view, some foster carers are more skilled or committed than others. There is also an interaction between child and carer.1 Some children fit in better with some foster families than they would have done with other families with equal skill and commitment to fostering. Carers themselves acknowledge that 'some you bond with, some you don't'.
These hypotheses are in keeping with common sense and with the emphasis laid by social workers on 'matching'. It is, however, difficult to get evidence for them from the literature. There is some evidence that experienced, 'middle-aged' foster carers who do not have their own children living with them do 'better' (Hill, Lambert and Triseliotis 1989). This evidence, however, is not particularly strong or consistent.
There is very little hard evidence on matching or on the impact of carers' skill. Such evidence as exists suggests that depressed carers (or adoptive parents) and punitive ones may do worse in terms of psychological outcomes (Gibbons, Conroy and Bell 1995). Conversely, carers who are responsive, and able to manage behaviour may do better (Quinton etal. 1998). As Quinton and his colleagues point out, responsiveness and sensible control are easier to provide for some children than others. In their study they found that children who had been rejected were more difficult at the beginning of a placement