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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Home and (dis)continuity: Foster care for children with migrant backgrounds

Alternative title: Hjem og (dis) kontinuitet: Fosteromsorg for barn med migrasjonsbakgrunn

Awarded: NOK 12.1 mill.

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2020 - 2025

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HoMi's primary objective is to enhance the participation and wellbeing of children with migrant backgrounds living in foster care, through providing policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge they need to implement culturally sensitive services. To achieve this objective, we will a) analyse policy documents in six European countries, b) explore professional practice and decisionmaking in Norway and Sweden, and c) explore the experiences of children and their foster carers in Norway and Sweden. Due to globalisation and increased migration across European countries, a growing number of children with migrant backgrounds are placed in foster care. However, we lack knowledge about how current arrangements meet the specific needs of these children. In media debates, critics claim that child welfare services lack cultural sensitivity; that children?s cultural rights and needs are not sufficiently taken into account. Others point to the pitfall of over-focusing on 'cultural' aspects, thus overlooking children's right to participation and protection. HoMi explores how current arrangements impact on migrant children?s opportunities to participate and live well, while growing up in foster care and later in life. We ask: How do European state policies frame and give direction to foster care practice? How can continuity be considered in best interest assessments for children with migrant background entering foster care? What are child welfare workers and former foster children's perspectives on the role of cultural background when children are matched with foster carers? How do children and their carers understand what it means to establish and maintain a place called 'home'? Based on the knowledge gained through this extensive data collection, HoMi aims to better understand the complex dilemmas at play and produce useful knowledge and recommendations for policy and practice.

HoMi investigates how growing up in foster care impacts on the participation and wellbeing of children with migrant backgrounds. We will 1) compare the legal and political conditions that frame ‘continuity in care’ in six countries, 2) explore how to make best interest decisions for children with migrant backgrounds in foster care, 3) examine how ‘continuity in care’ and ‘home’ are perceived and negotiated by children and their foster carers in everyday life, 4) develop theory and draw out implications for policy and practice. ‘Continuity in care’ refers to the duty of nation states to ensure that decision-makers ensures children’s continuity in adult relationships, as well as ethnic, cultural, religious and lingual background (UNHCR, art.20). Evidence, however, suggests that challenges may arise if the child’s cultural background is either under- or over-emphasised. Debates concerning the role of cultural identity in social work practice feed into questions on how welfare states should govern diversity through family service institutions in general. Engaging in a topic of high public and political interest, we ask: How is the ideal of ‘continuity in care’ for children with migrant backgrounds framed by policy makers, planned for by child welfare workers and negotiated by children and foster carers? Policies in six England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are analysed and compared to bring forth structural similarities and differences that may impact on children’s life situations. Furthermore, Norway and Sweden will serve as case countries to explore in depth decision-making processes, as well as children and carers lived experiences. Extensive qualitative fieldwork in the case countries will consist of vignette focus groups and individual interviews with child welfare workers and former foster children, and longitudinal photo-elicitation exercises and narrative interviews with foster carers and children with migrant backgrounds.

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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon