The majority of children in care are placed in family foster care across the UK. Globally, across high-income countries and across all countries, the statistics on family foster care are lacking, but there is increasing attention on reducing overall rates of institutional care and increasing the use of family foster care. The decision to place children or young people with a particular foster family is a pivotal moment in the care journey.
The act of matching involves the connecting of children in care with foster families for emergency, short-term and long-term placements, including:
- The decision-making process
- The process of providing information to the child and family
- Placing the child or children into the household.
The review outlined in this protocol fills a gap in the evidence base in relation to foster care specifically: little is synthesised about impact from matching decisions or about the experience of children and young people and foster carers in the whole matching process. The existing literature reviews on matching in foster care come from teams in the Netherlands and Australia. These reviews focus purely on the decision-making process and on the child and household factors that are thought of as fit in both adoption and fostering. Neither review asks either of the questions below and neither aims to be a systematic review. As such, they omit studies already preliminarily identified as potentially useful for this review.
The current review also aims to be helpful in understanding the strength of evidence around current practices in matching. The review results may also challenge current beliefs about the causality between matching processes (e.g., sufficient information) and outcomes or whether third factors are at play (e.g., externalising behaviours, supports).
The review will answer the following two questions:
- Experiences and perceptions: From the research literature, what factors do social workers, foster carers and children and young people say are important for matching based on their lived experience?
- Impact and attribution: What is the evidence from high-income countries about how matching decisions in foster care can be attributed to outcomes?
The three primary outcomes will be placement disruptions, child wellbeing and foster carer wellbeing.
It is anticipated that the final report will be published in Spring 2021.