Foster care research in Australia: can we count on making a difference to policy and practice, for families and children

Thorpe, Ros (2003) Foster care research in Australia: can we count on making a difference to policy and practice, for families and children. In: Proceedings of CROCCS Overview of Research Conference: Protecting Children What Counts? An Overview of Research Conference, 8 August 2003, pp. 1-23. From: CROCCS Overview of Research Conference: Protecting Children - What Counts?, 7-9 August 2003, Airlie Beach, QLD, Australia.

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Abstract

“I’ve been fostering for 15 years. I’ve even won an award. Big Deal! All I see is things going downhill and getting worse. What good will come from this research? Will anything change?” [Foster Carer 2003]

“I’ve participated in heaps of surveys but seen no improvements. What difference will this survey make?” [Foster Carer 2003]

“It’s really disheartening to think that you do all this work and nothing may come of it” [PhD Researcher 2003]

These opening comments have been made this year in respect of the collaborative research on Foster Care and Foster Carers being undertaken by the research partnership between the School of Social Work and Community Welfare at James Cook University and the Mackay/Whitsunday Region of the Queensland Department of Families. They reflect uncertainty shared by both researchers and research participants about whether and how research will make any positive difference to the lives of children in foster care.

This scepticism is not unusual according to a reviewer of the recently published collection Making a Difference in Families (Munford and Sanders 2003). “It’s not unusual for Social Researchers and research participants to feel frustrated and at times cynical about the potential for research to have a positive impact on policies that could improve the circumstances of the people studied” (Croker 2003).

The editors of Making a Difference in Families, Robyn Munford and Jackie Sanders, seek to dispel such dismay by providing hope and direction. Through ten accounts of actual research which has had a positive impact on social policy or practice in human services, they identify critical points in the research process when making a difference might be pursued.

Following their lead, I intend to address some of the ways in which there is potential for research to make a difference. None of them are assured without conscious and deliberate effort and, when all is said and done, the gains may be less than we might hope for. Nonetheless, I believe that there are at least four ways we might count on making a difference:

• Research as a Transformative Experience for participants • Research as Impetus for improved practice with families • Research as an influence for social policy change and development • Research as an influence in shaping further research

I will address each of these in turn, using examples drawn from the JCU/QDOF Foster Care research partnership, the Munford and Sanders collection, and other recently published reviews and accounts of research, admittedly confined to the western world, though including research with Indigenous families and children.

Item ID: 4427
Item Type: Conference Item (Refereed Research Paper - E1)
Keywords: children; families; foster care; policy; practice; research
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2009 23:56
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology @ 51%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work @ 49%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940112 Families and Family Services @ 50%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940199 Community Service (excl. Work) not elsewhere classified @ 25%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940104 Carers Development and Welfare @ 25%
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