Assessment of foster carers: their willingness to raise children with special needs
Keywords:family foster care, breakdown, willingness to foster, children with special needs
A substantial number of children placed out of home in family foster care suffer severe emotional and behavioural problems. These problems can increase the risk of a placement breakdown, where a child's stay with a foster family comes prematurely to an end because, for instance, the foster carers are no longer able to handle the child's challenging behaviour. As a result, the child will be moved to another care environment. To reduce the risk of such breakdowns, it is crucial to assess prospective foster carers on whether they feel competent and are willing to raise children with special needs or conduct problems. As part of a research programme on the applicability of the Casey Home Assessment Protocol (CHAP) in the Netherlands, prospective foster carers (N=37) were interviewed about their willingness to include children with special needs in their families. In nearly 40% of cases the participants were 'under no circumstances' willing to admit into their families children who had committed sexual offences or were sexually active, who used drugs or who showed cruelty to animals. Children with incurable illnesses or intellectual or physical disabilities were also quite often not welcome. Offering professional help and support to foster carers increased their willingness to foster these children. The implications of the outcomes are discussed, especially regarding their significance for the matching process in family foster care.