Experiences of vicarious trauma among Australian foster parents providing long-term care to non-indigenous children

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Abstract

In Australia, significant numbers of children in out-of-home care live in foster care placements, with many such placements being long-term. Despite the potential healing that may occur in the context of foster care, many foster children experience high levels of poor mental health, and may enact trauma-related behaviours that can significantly impact upon the foster placement. Yet to date, the topic of foster parents witnessing and living with the trauma experienced by their foster children has received relatively little empirical attention. This paper reports on a thematic analysis of interviews conducted with 85 Australian foster parents providing long-term care to non-indigenous children, focusing specifically on accounts of vicarious trauma. Four themes were developed: (1) Trauma-related behaviours are unpredictable and require constant attention, (2) Trauma histories are always present and make it hard to connect, (3) Caring for children with a trauma history can be socially isolating, and (4) Lack of agency support to understand child's trauma. The paper concludes by exploring implications of the findings for the support, training, and care of foster parents so as to ensure that the potential for vicarious trauma is recognized and addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106221
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume129
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Foster care
  • Foster parenting
  • Trauma-related behaviours
  • Vicarious trauma

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