Coping with Adversity in the Lives of Children in Foster Care

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Introduction:The theoretical-empirical study is based on two particular case studies of families bringing up children from institutional care. It deals with the real needs of foster families, with the foster parents’ perception of fostering and their experiences from the time spent with children in foster care, about the children’s behaviour in adverse situations, which the foster parents must deal with in the period of the child’s adaptation to the new environment of their households. The authors accentuate the importance of communication and emotional education from the aspect of personality development of children placed into new families. These children should be prepared for moving from a known into an unknown environment. In the conclusions, the authors give several specific recommendations within the framework of semantic categories dealt with in the chapters and subchapters of the study.

Methods:The study is based on a theoretical analysis of the presented issues. For the purposes of the research, the following research methods were used

- Content analysis of official documents (job description of social workers in foster family care).

- Case studies of two clients of the offices of Social and Legal Protection of Children and Social Curatorship in the field offices of Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family in Nitra and Bratislava Self-Governing Regions carried out in 2018.

- Logical operations - analysis, synthesis, comparison.

- Interviews with foster carers (Family 1 and Family 2) carried out throughout the whole year 2018.

- Generalization in semantic categories which, at the same time, are the titles of the chapters and subchapters bellow, and also in the conclusions and recommendations for foster care and the social practice.

Results:For personal development, children need relationships with others. Maternal and paternal love, and care are the basic elements of these relationships - as confirmed in the interviews with foster parents. Alongside with biological parenthood, the so-called “psychological parenthood” has an important role to play. The role of a psychological parent can be filled by the members of own (i.e. biological) family as well as by adoptive parents, foster parents, the biological parents’ partners (stepmothers and stepfathers) and - under certain conditions - also by personnel in facilities of social care. Their psychological needs and the extent of their satisfaction determine what they will experience and how they will feel.

Discussion:It is important to prepare parents to accept the fact that foster parenthood is different from biological parenthood. Prospective foster parents often come to the offices of Social and Legal Protection of Children and Social Curatorship with the opinion that not even biological parents are being prepared for their parental roles. Foster parents already having biological children argue - as it follows from the interviews carried out throughout the research - that they are experienced parents and, so, they can bring up foster children as well. They do not realize that foster children bring something new that biological children have never experienced. Biological and foster parenthood are definitely not the same.

Conclusions:In the conclusions, the authors point out that children in foster care identify with their parents’ values and opinions. For children who have faced significant adversity in their lives, it is beneficial if the family environment and education are harmonious. Such good conditions can have a positive impact on the children’s entire future lives. In the process of adaptation, the whole network of relationships within the family must be re-structuralized, which requires well-prepared family members.

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