• June 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 5

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They're All My Children: Foster Mothering in America

Wozniak, Danielle F. New York University Press, NY. 2002. 255 pp. $18.00. Paperback.

The Connecticut State Legislative Program Review and Investigations (SLPRI) Committee hired Wozniak to conduct ethnographic interviews with foster mothers for the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The SLPRI Committee wanted to know who the foster mothers were and why they chose to foster, so they could make legislative recommendations for institutional changes in DCF, and improvements in foster care administration. The author, simultaneously collecting data for her own research, wanted to know how women are introduced to fostering, and how it shapes and changes the way they think of themselves and their families and children. The study sample consisted of an even number of African American and Euro-American foster mothers, mostly married, ranging in age from 28-78 years old, and licensed by the state of Connecticut. They had each fostered between zero and 250 children in their lives, and, at the time of the study, cared for zero to five children, only a small portion of whom were relatives. Most of the foster families were poor or working class.

Interviews with the mothers found that their reasons for fostering fell into five overlapping and inclusive categories:

  • Altruism, and social and moral responsibility
  • Family tradition
  • Social action
  • The desire for more children
  • The need or desire for income or employment.

The women consistently revealed several themes about self and community: physical space as a metaphor for emotional availability; being chosen, rather than choosing to foster; and informal fostering as a pathway to formal fostering. An appendix provides further details about the methods used to conduct the study.

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