Enduring relationships and commitment: Experiences of adolescent entrants to foster care and foster carers

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: School of Social Work


Adolescent entrants are a significant and growing population within the English care system and their journeys within and out of care are a key area of social work and foster care policy and practice. Adolescent entrants are defined as young people who enter, or re-enter care through reasons of abuse, neglect and/or family breakdown aged ten or above.

There remains a lack of sufficient research acknowledging the unique challenges of fostering adolescent entrants. There is particularly limited research relating to the experience of foster carer commitment to adolescent entrants.

This proposed research builds on the researcher's MRes dissertation research which explored the experiences of foster carers caring for adolescent entrants. Key findings revealed the importance of relationship-building and suggested foster carers often experience a high level of commitment to the adolescents in their care. Being able to 'stick' with the young person was evident through a commitment which enabled an enduring relationship which transcended the initial foster placement, including in some cases continuing beyond a difficult disruption. The nature of enduring relationships and commitment have been researched with regards to foster carers' experiences of caring for young infants, or adolescents who have grown up in foster care (adolescent graduates). The differences in levels of commitment between foster carers and residential care providers who care for adolescents has also been examined in research. However, these concepts have not been examined specifically in relation to the experiences of adolescent entrants and foster carers.

This research aims to develop conceptual and theoretical insights into how relationships and commitment are experienced by adolescent entrants and foster carers. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with 10-15 adolescent entrants and the same number of foster carers. Though the aim is not to corroborate experiences, some matched pairs may be interviewed. Grounded theory will be used for analysis and to yield new theory from the data generated.

This exploration of an undervalued and under-researched area of foster care practice will challenge the current policy preoccupations with organisational and service outcomes for children and young people in care, which equate placement endings with the end of relationships. Instead this study will assist in broadening, reframing and reconceptualising the notion of foster care for adolescent entrants by positioning caregiving and outcomes through the lens of committed relationships.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00072X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2113028 Studentship ES/P00072X/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2021 Emma Speer