June 2007Vol. 8, No. 5Children's Perspectives on Out-of-Home Care
A recent literature review synthesized the results of 22 qualitative studies—including interviews with current and former foster youth—to better understand children's perspectives on out-of-home care. Using a client-centered evaluation approach, the study highlights the importance of consumer feedback and the unique insights foster children can contribute to the development of child welfare practice, planning, and policy.
The study reviewed children's experiences in relation to four child welfare goals: protecting children from harm, fostering well-being, supporting children's families, and promoting permanence. Four themes emerged from the interviews:
- Children often feel safer in their caregiver's home than they did in their birth parent's home, but not necessarily in the new neighborhood in which they live.
- The strength of children's relationships has a positive influence on their subjective experience of safety, permanency, and well-being; to encourage strong relationships, social workers should help children maintain current healthy relationships while building new ones.
- Children often have a broader concept of family than strict legal definitions allow, and they may benefit from more inclusive definitions of family.
- When appropriate, children should be involved in case planning and permanency decisions.
The authors suggest that social workers and caregivers can use children's feedback both in their everyday work and to advocate for policy and program improvements. They also suggest that the child welfare field would benefit from expanding the knowledge base in this often overlooked field of study.
"A Response to No One Ever Asked Us: A Review of Children's Experiences in Out-of-Home Care," by Adair Fox and Jill Duerr Berrick, was published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 24(1), and can be viewed online: