The language and policy of care and parenting: Understanding the uncertainty about key players' roles in foster care provision

Gregory Hollin, Michael Larkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent debates about the care provided to looked-after children have been characterised by uncertainty about the differing roles and responsibilities of foster carers, birth parents, and social workers. To explore the assumptions underlying these uncertainties, we drew upon Foucauldian Discourse Analysis and compared the discourses used by professionals (social workers in a group discussion about foster placement breakdown) with those used by policy-makers (in the Governmental green paper 'Care Matters'). In both cases, a discourse based upon Attachment Theory was used to explain why placements succeed and fail, and to predict the repercussions of failure. However, there was a key difference in the way that professionals and policy-makers constructed the roles of key players in foster placements. The social workers constructed the birth parents as the parental figures for children in care, constructing themselves in a non-parental role. 'Care Matters' largely ignores the role of birth parents, and instead constructs social workers as parental figures. Neither source viewed foster carers as parental and 'Care Matters' positions this group as strictly professional. We discuss the incongruence of foster placements being understood through Attachment Theory, while foster carers are understood as non-parental figures, and also the repercussions of labelling a social worker as a parent, and the professionalization of the role of the foster carer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2198-2206
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume33
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Discourse
  • Foster care
  • Looked-after children
  • Policy
  • Social work

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