Foster children's family relations - What are important family relations to a foster child?
social work University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
Today it is often emphasized that children's voices should be heard in research. Thus far in Finland foster children have been rarely interviewed for purposes of research. Opinions are usually asked of adults who have experience of being in foster care, or social workers. As a researcher I am interested in children's perspectives. The results of my studies showed that children are able to speak openly about difficult subjects and can produce important and valuable information about their lives. Only foster children themselves can describe their experiences of their relationships within their family and their conception of the family.
In this paper I will present some preliminary results of my ongoing doctoral research, which focuses on the foster family from foster children's point of view. My research questions are: 1) What kinds of experiences of their family relations do the foster children have? 2) What is a foster child's family? Main question in this presentation is: What are important family relations to a foster child? The target group of this research is 13 foster children aged 7 to 12 and it includes both boys and girls. As a method I used focus interviews, social network maps and diaries. In this presentation I will concentrate mostly on the results of the interviews and the social network maps.
Biological family relations seem to be important to foster children, but they are also very contradictory. Foster children have right to be in contact to their biological parents regularly during the foster care, does it make the situation of the child difficult? Is she or he constantly between two parents? Or can a child feel rich because of having two families? It is an interesting question why the biological family relations are so important to foster children, even though their parents have neglected them? Would it be different, if these children were adopted and not in constant contact to their biological parents? Would it be easier situation to foster children?