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Foster families a double-edged sword


30 June 2003

The findings of a research study based on the experiences of the natural children of foster carers on the Mid North Coast will be presented in the United Kingdom next month.

Elaine Nuske, a Southern Cross University (SCU) Social Sciences lecturer based at the Coffs Harbour campus, interviewed 22 young people whose parents also provided care to foster children.

The research findings, part of a PhD that Mrs Nuske will complete next year, will be presented at a conference run by The British Association for the Study of Child Abuse at York University on July 21.

Mrs Nuske said living in a family that provided foster care could be a ‘double-edged sword’ for the natural children.

“I interviewed them about their experiences. What I found was that it was a very contradictory experience,” Mrs Nuske said.

“They care a lot about the foster children living with them, but they also resent them being there. They want to share their families but may lose their families in the process. However, on balance they feel they get a lot out of it.”

Mrs Nuske said the research was important because of the increasing difficulty in finding and retaining foster carers.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to recruit foster families and quite often people identify one of the reasons as the impact on their own children.”

She said if people were aware of the consequences beforehand they would be better prepared to deal with it.

“Often, the natural children are not included in the training and there is little support for them. Most of these young people have never spoken to others in the same situation. In the UK there are quite a lot of support groups for the young people.”

Mrs Nuske said they often did not tell their parents about their own problems because they felt they were insignificant compared to those of the foster children.

“Foster parents are fantastic people and they do amazing things. They do recognise the difficulties experienced by their own kids, but perhaps not the intensity of their experiences. These are vulnerable young people and by listening to what they have to say hopefully foster carers and workers will be better able to help them.”

For more information contact Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan, Media Liaison, Southern Cross University, Ph: 02 6620 3144, email: [email protected].