Parental bonding and empowerment in foster care: implications for role identity and satisfaction

by Timothy Broady

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Social Policy Research Centre
Year: 2015
Keywords: Attachment; Foster care; Personal Construct Psychology; Empowerment; Identity
Record ID: 1046525
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54273


It is widely acknowledged in Australian and international literature that the retention of foster carers is an issue of great concern. Across jurisdictions, a trend exists whereby increasing numbers of children are being removed from their families of origin, while fewer foster carers are available to provide out-of-home care (OOHC). Utilising a framework of personal construct psychology (PCP), this thesis investigates core issues influencing foster carers’ role satisfaction and their consequent willingness to continue providing OOHC. The notions of bonding and empowerment are particularly salient in understanding foster carer satisfaction. In accordance with existing literature, this thesis finds that these concepts are associated with foster carers’ role and relationship satisfaction. However, satisfaction is related to empowerment within a family specific context only, and to carers’ investment in bonding relationships (but not children’s reciprocal responses). The significance of these findings in relation to previous literature is discussed, particularly in terms of implications for providing targeted training and support. From the basis of PCP, this thesis employs a novel framework to understanding foster carers’ experiences of bonding and empowerment as they take on certain parental responsibilities for a child who, ultimately, is not their own. Pilot interviews investigated foster carers’ perceptions of their role and carer-child relationships. Their role constructions and sense of identity are discussed, focusing on the extent to which they construe themselves as a ‘parent’ or ‘not a parent’. The main study surveyed foster carers to assess experiences of bonding, empowerment and role satisfaction. Differences and similarities between foster caring and parenting roles are also determined through comparisons with a group of parents raising their own children. Ultimately, this thesis contributes to a growing body of literature by developing a framework through which foster carers’ conceptualisations of their role can be understood. This framework illustrates the necessity of individual consideration in supporting foster carers at both practice and policy levels. In order to effectively support and empower foster carers to continue in their role, it is concluded that their personal conceptualisations of their own role identity must be considered and managed within the requirements of the broader child protection system.