Supportive practices: perceptions of interventions targeting parents whose children are placed in out-of-home care

Emelie Shanks and Ylva Spånberger Weitz - Adoption & Fostering


Knowledge regarding the needs of parents whose children are placed in out-of-home care is still limited and studies focusing on interventions targeting this group are scarce. This article explores birth parents’ views on their needs and perceptions of support delivered by two different interventions: one offering support to individuals and the other providing a parental group. The methodology comprised a thematic analysis of 14 qualitative interviews. Parents’ expressed needs revolved around five issues: participation and influence in the relations with child welfare services; their emotional needs; their social needs; their relationship with their child; and practical and financial arrangements. The results revealed that the two interventions had overlapping as well as specific supportive functions and that these met some of the identified needs. Both programmes provided an opportunity for parents to speak openly about their grief and experiences of stigma and to receive help to cope with it, thus functioning as empowering and stigma-relieving practices that provide emotional support. The intervention that offered individual support contributed to a reduction in parents’ feelings of powerlessness when negotiating with child welfare services and functioned as an equalising practice by facilitating participation and influence. The parental group succeeded in reducing parents’ social isolation, providing social support and functioning as a normalising practice. However, neither intervention was explicitly perceived as helpful for improving parent–child relationships or practical and financial arrangements. The study highlights how the parents benefitted from receiving different types of support and contributes to knowledge about a group that has been neglected in practice and research.