“And then I realised I can't do it anymore”: Foster care breakdown perspectives of foster children and foster parents in German-speaking Switzerland
Keywords:foster care, placement breakdown, disruption, discontinuity, placement change, perspective of foster children, perspective of foster parents
With the aim of gathering new knowledge about the complex processes that lead to the breakdown of foster care placements, an international research team explored the reasons for the unplanned termination of these placements in Germany, England, and Switzerland. The Project 'Foster Care Placement Breakdown' (2014-2017) was a cooperation between the Universities of Siegen and London and the Zürich University of Applied Sciences, School of Social Work (lead), financed by the Jacobs Foundation. In this article, we present the findings from the Swiss subproject, focusing on the experiences and definitions of foster children and foster parents, exploring how foster children and foster parents experience and explain placement breakdown processes. We explore key topics and influences based on interviews with foster children (n=13) and foster parents (n=20). These qualitative, semi-structured interviews were carried out in German-speaking Switzerland. The data evaluation involved a combination of hermeneutic and content-analysis processes. The results show that foster care placement breakdown processes are always complex, subject to the influence of multiple factors, and cannot be reduced to isolated causes. What emerges clearly in the research, however, is that one experience common to foster children who have gone through a breakdown in foster care is the feeling of no longer belonging to the foster family from a particular point in time. From the perspective of the foster parents, it is possible to reconstruct different conditional constellations (e.g., stresses and burdens on foster parents or a lack of willingness of schools to support the foster child) associated with the process of foster care placement breakdown. The results provide important insights for the supervision of foster care placements and the management of placement breakdown processes.