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Home and (dis)continuity: Foster care for children with migrant backgrounds (HoMi)

Research project
Active research
Project size
12 millions
Project period
2021 - 2025
Project owner
Göteborgs universitet, Institutionen för socialt arbete/ NORCE Research (Norge).

Financier
Norges forskningsråd (NFR)

Short description

Due to globalisation and increased migration across European countries, a growing number of children with migrant backgrounds are placed in foster care. However, we lack knowledge about how current arrangements meet the specific needs of these children.

The primary objective with this project is to enhance the participation and wellbeing of children with migrant backgrounds living in foster care, through providing policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge they need to implement culturally sensitive services. To achieve this objective, we will a) analyse policy documents in six European countries, b) explore professional practice in Norway and Sweden, and c) follow a group of children and their foster carers in Norway and Sweden for three years.

Background

Due to globalisation and increased migration across European countries, a growing number of children with migrant backgrounds are placed in foster care. However, we lack knowledge about how current arrangements meet the specific needs of these children. In media debates, critics claim that child welfare services lack cultural sensitivity; that children’s cultural rights and needs are not sufficiently taken into account. Others point to the pitfall of over-focusing on ‘cultural’ aspects, thus overlooking children’s right to participation and protection. HoMi explores how current arrangements impact on migrant children’s opportunities to participate and live well, while growing up in foster care and later in life.

 

Aim

 

HoMi’s primary objective is to enhance the participation and wellbeing of children with migrant backgrounds living in foster care, through providing policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge they need to implement culturally sensitive services. For the purpose of this project, we define children with migrant backgrounds (hereafter CMB) as persons below 18 years of age who are descendants of migrants or who have themselves migrated, alone or with caregivers, for any reason other than for employment only.

 

Research questions

How are ideals of continuity for children in foster care framed in national policy documents in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Ireland, and Scotland? (WP 1)

 

What are child welfare workers and former foster children’s perspectives on the role of cultural background when CMB are matched with foster carers? How can ‘continuity in care’ be considered in best interest assessments for CMB in foster care? (WP 2)

 

What are the ‘homing’ experiences of CMB and foster carers? More specifically, how is ‘continuity in care’ negotiated by children and foster parents when they navigate between the past, the present, and the future in the construction of home? (WP 3)

 

Within the broader frame of ‘continuity in care’, how can ‘cultural continuity’ be conceptualized, and what are its implications for policy and practice?

(WP 4)


 

 

Based on the knowledge gained through this extensive data collection, HoMi aims to better understand the complex dilemmas at play and produce useful knowledge and recommendations for policy and practice.

 

Methodology

 

This project incorporates four work packages (WP).
We employ methodological triangulation: document analysis, focus group discussions based on experimental vignettes, photo-elicitation exercises and narrative interviews.

 

In WP1 we collect, analyse, and compare legal and institutional documents in six European welfare

states England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The comparative design allows us to highlight how various child protection systems shape foster care policies and how assumptions and normative concerns are formulated, and thus will reveal similarities and differences related to ideals about home and family and acceptable ways of fostering CMB.

 

In WP2 and WP3 we aim for an in-depth investigation of foster care for CMB in Norway and Sweden.

 

In WP2 we conduct a vignette study. Vignettes will be presented in focus groups with ‘experts-by-experience’ who have previous experiences from being in foster care and with child welfare workers. The vignettes are designed as real-life matching processes, thus allowing for reflections about how ‘continuity in care’ can be ensured in practice. The focus groups allow us to a) observe child welfare workers reflections, reasoning, and decision-making as it evolves, and b) elicit the views of ‘experts-by-experience’ whose voices are seldom heard in relation to decision-making in child welfare. The vignette study will be combined with semi structured individual interviews with child welfare workers to elicit individual views and reflections on how to make best interest decisions for CMB in foster care.

In WP3, we examine the processual dynamics at play in creations of ‘home’ through a case study of

foster children’s and carers’ experiences. Data collection methods are photo-elicitation exercises

and narrative interviews. Data will be collected at three points in time providing a unique opportunity to study how ‘homing’ evolves across time.

 

 

WP4 aims to develop a conceptual framework for ‘cultural continuity’, further develop the

theoretical framework of home and draw out implications for policy and practice. This will be done by studying the interrelatedness of policy frameworks, decision-making, and lived experiences.