Placement in a foster family by child welfare services is a crucial decision in the trajectory of a child. Nevertheless, the strategies and procedures underlying the decision to remove a child from his/her family for placement in foster care remain little studied. Based on 39 semi-directed individual interviews with social workers from child welfare services, the current study aims at highlighting how social workers come to the decision to remove a child from parental care, and how they choose a foster family.
The thematic analysis of the qualitative data collected reveals that four main components were raised by social workers to explain how they make their decisions regarding placement and what are the considerations associated with this process: (1) Professional consensus and collaboration, (2) Clinical and legal guidelines, (3) Risk assessment and clinical judgment, and (4) Personality and values of the social worker. The results of this study show that decisions surrounding the removal of a child from his/her family and the choice of a foster family are the result of multiples factors and strategies involving the social worker and other collaborating professionals, as well as their legal and administrative context.
The findings suggest that additional efforts could be made in child protection organizations and agencies in order to develop supportive measures that take into account the collective and interactional aspect of the decision-making process regarding placement in foster care.