Growing up in Foster Care

By Gillian Schofield, Mary Beck and Kay Sargent with June

British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering


IBSN 1 873868 93 6

Long-term foster care rarely makes media headlines in the way
children’s homes and adoption have in recent years. It is as if
there is a belief in some quarters that it may no longer be needed
when we have perfected family support, rehabilitation and

But it will be needed as many children and young people continue
to be placed in long-term foster care. Indeed, it has endured many
of the shifts and passing fads in child welfare policy. Against
this background, this book represents a significant addition to the

It is based on an in-depth study of the experiences of 58
children, their foster carers, a sample of their birth parents and
their child care and family placement social workers. In short, it
tells their stories, and it does so in a very accessible way,
drawing on different research methods to achieve a balance between
description, narrative and the presentation of the powerful voices
of the participants.

In addition, the analysis is coherent and sophisticated,
grounded in practical wisdom and informed by attachment theory. It
is the key concepts of attachment which underpin the three main
parts of the book.

The analysis also highlights key dilemmas for the participants:
for social workers the boundaries between short-term and long-term
foster care as well as adoption; for foster carers issues
surrounding permanence; for birth families the unresolved feelings
surrounding the loss of their children and their placements; and
for the children themselves, the unresolved feelings towards their

This book represents an important contribution for two main
reasons. First, it is an overdue recognition of the contribution
made by long-term foster care. Second, its in-depth research and
sophisticated analysis provides a strong qualitative foundation for
the further development of policy and practice in this neglected

Mike Stein is head of the social work section of the department
of social policy and social work, University of York.

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