Foster Parenthood: a Role Analysis by David Fanshel

By David Fanshel

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One formulation of a possible encompassing theory of the social origins of foster parents would run as follows: Foster parents are people who in their earlier lives were exposed to a concept of the family as being an open system (one could be grafted onto it or transplanted out of it) or who experienced a closed family system in which the internal relationships between parents and children were so diluted as to blur the perception of the family, particularly the parentchild relationship, as distinct from other social organisms.

In 15 cases, both partners had come to the decision at the same time, and in three cases, the father was the one who first showed interest. It would appear that the initiative for assuming this status position had come very largely from the foster mothers. FOSTER MOTHERS' PERCEPTIONS OF THE FOSTER PARENT ROLE We shall now take a look at some of the more qualitative aspects of the subjects' adaptation to the foster parent status position as revealed in the research interviews. But first it is of interest to know whether foster parents make the decision to take on the fostering of children as a result of some specific occurrence hi their lives.

It was of interest to the agency to determine the extent to which the foster fathers were involved in some of the activities inherent in the rearing of foster children. The foster mothers were asked to indicate whether they had exclusive responsibility in certain of the fostering tasks or whether these were shared with their husbands. A fairly considerable amount of sharing had been taking place, as reported by the foster mothers. While Table 18 shows that bringing the foster children to the medical clinic was the exclusive concern of 55 per cent of the foster mothers caring for infants and 46 per cent of those caring for older children, the decision to board a child at the agency's request proved to be less exclusively within the control of the foster mothers.

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