The theme of this weekend’s Irish Foster Care Association conference is Realising Potential in Foster Care.
Evidence shows that the quality of our couple, family and social relationships is a key determinant of health and well-being and this is pertinent to children in foster care, who may have more relationships to navigate than a child living with their biological families In Ag Eisteacht’s ‘Relationships Matter’ document, the importance of children maintaining contact with their birth families even in situations where reunification is not a prospect, is highlighted by Coulter:
“Even if reunification is not in prospect, maintaining a child’s relationship with his or her birth family (outside of grave ill treatment) will generally be a positive factor in their future sense of identity and mental health” (Coulter 2015, p. 53)
“Children who enter the care system can also suffer the loss of significant relationships with their siblings. While this has been given greater recognition in recent years, challenges around lack of contact continue to undermine these relationships.” (Cooper, 2013)
Geography and change in foster families can also make it difficult for children in foster care to build their relational capability i.e. their capability to form and nurture healthy relationships with friends and colleagues at school. Research shows that while they do not often want it widely known that they are in care, children discuss it with certain friends. (Darmody, McMahon, Banks & Gilligan, 2013) These trusting and supportive friendships are valuable and young people may be anxious about the changes / losses that may occur if they are moving to a different family.
Good quality relationships are a potential asset in over-coming adversity and helping children realise their full potential, and develop their cognitive ability in educational settings, build their social and emotional competence, and be healthier… Considering children in foster care in the context of their relationships with their family and friends can help improve outcomes in the short and long term.
We, in Ag Eisteacht, would like to wish the Irish Foster Care Association a stimulating and enlightening weekend and hope that new relationships are forged, old ones celebrated, and maybe fraught ones repaired!
*Image Credit to KYJO