The foster carer's experience: an integrative review
Background Foster carers have a significant responsibility in caring for children who are unable to live with their birth families and represent a key determinant in child outcomes. Difficulties in recruiting and retaining quality foster carers have resulted in an increase in research investigating foster carers and their experiences in recent years. Aim To synthesise current literature investigating foster carers and their experiences to enable a better understanding of their unique care-giving context. Method The electronic databases CINAHL, Health Source, MEDLINE, Pscyh-articles, PsycINFO and sociINDEX were searched using the key terms; 'foster carer', 'foster parent', 'foster mother' and 'foster father'. Articles were included if they reported primary data about foster carers experiences in the English language. Papers published prior to 2000 were excluded in order to provide a contemporary perspective of the foster carer experience. Data was extracted, tabulated and thematically analysed. Findings The findings from this review revealed the provision of foster care to have both positive and negative effects on foster carers personal well-being. These effects are largely reliant of foster carers perception of their role as either parental or professional, the nature of their relationships with child welfare personnel, and their ability to manage children's difficult behaviours. Conclusion It is important for nurses to understand caregiving as it occurs in a variety of contexts. Nurses need to have an awareness and understanding of the value and role foster carers have in the lives of vulnerable children. In so doing, nurses are well positioned to assist foster carers to identify and express their needs in relation to their important caregiving role.