Connecting children with their family of origin : a study of contact arrangements for fostered children in Malta

Galea-Seychell, Olivia (2011). Connecting children with their family of origin : a study of contact arrangements for fostered children in Malta. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d4e4

Abstract

Maintaining links with the family of origin is significant to children's welfare. This thesis studies contact arrangements between children in foster care and their family of origin. Contact with birth parents, siblings and the extended family is explored. A survey of social work case files is carried out. The survey of 136 fostered children reports that children live in long term care. Same sibling placement is uncommon. Children are most frequently in contact with siblings, followed by contact with the mother. Contact with the father is associated negatively with educational attainment, whilst contact with the mother is associated with emotional/behavioural concerns. As a result of the survey's findings, this thesis develops an intensive study of contact. Twenty two children residing in foster care and their 21 foster carers are interviewed. Pictorial vignettes and visual spatial techniques are administered to children. Through these techniques children's views, experiences and wishes of contact are reported. A questionnaire and an interview are also administered to foster carers. Children view contact favourably with siblings and the extended family. Negative emotions are found when contact with parents is discussed. Most children have face-to-face contact with siblings. They also wish to have more contact with siblings. Contact with the extended family such as grandparents is non-threatening. Foster carers hold ambivalent views about contact. Whilst promoting contact, they show reluctance towards children's contact with parents and the extended family. The study reports that both children and foster carers are involved, by practitioners, in contact issues. Moreover, contact is identified as significant to children's identity development. A practice model of contact is discussed in the conclusion of this thesis.

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