Fostering the family, not just the child: Exploring the value of a residential family preservation programme from the perspectives of service users and staff

C.M.Rapsey & Cassandra J. Rolston - Children and Youth Services Review

Abstract

Placement in out-of-home care is associated with a number of devastating outcomes for mothers and for their children in the short and long term. The aim of this study was to examine factors and processes of change that occurred through participation in a residential family preservation/reunification programme from the perspectives of service users and staff. We conducted in-depth interviews and a focus group with 12 service users and staff from one programme in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Three overarching themes common to the narratives of service users and staff were identified: 1) relationships, 2) programme structure, and 3) psychological resources. We describe eight sub-themes discussed by service users (emotional support, reciprocal learning, trust in staff, programme and therapy, daily routines, insight through trust, self-confidence, love for children) and six sub-themes discussed by staff (love and change, social learning, holistic, self-confidence, attunement, insight through trust). In addition, service users noted the importance of change occurring over time and staff identified the importance of an all-embracing nurturing environment (awhi). We discuss the place of culture as raised by one participant. Overall, the narratives offered hope that family preservation and reunification may be a potential alternative to parent/child separation for some families.