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Caring for looked after children from the perspectives of foster carers and social workers

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Kate Houlihan
Publication date2014
Number of pages175
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores the provision of care for looked after children from the perspectives of foster carers and social workers. It comprises of a literature review, a research paper, a critical appraisal of the research, and an ethics section.
The literature review aimed to explore the psychological needs of foster carers and how these needs may be met. A meta-ethnographic method was used to analyse and synthesise 21 qualitative research papers that addressed this topic. Five key themes were identified: the emotional experience of being a foster carer; being a ‘parent’ without parental rights; attachment and loss; value and frustration: two sides of professional support; and being truly understood: the value of peer support. The findings are discussed in relation to psychological theory and other research in this field. A number of clinical implications are discussed, along with recommendations for further research.
The research paper aimed to explore social workers’ experiences of psychological consultation around their work with looked after children. Eight social workers participated in semi-structured interviews, in which they were asked to reflect upon their experiences of psychological consultation. All interviews were transcribed and then analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Four themes were identified: An alternative perspective: Seeking expertise; A dual-purpose: consultation for families and the self; Consultation as a lifeline: The final chance; and Validation and acknowledgement: The psychological experience of consultation. The findings are discussed within the context of psychological theory and national policy around the care of looked after children. A number of clinical implications are highlighted and the role of clinical psychologists in the support of social workers is discussed. Recommendations for further research in this area are outlined.
The critical appraisal provides a reflective discussion of the research project. Issues relating to research design and researcher reflexivity are discussed.