Caring for vulnerable children: challenges of mothering in the Australian foster care system
Foster carers have a significant responsibility in caring for vulnerable children. In order to support and facilitate foster carers it is important to understand how they perceive and fulfil this responsibility. A qualitative storytelling study, informed by feminist perspectives, was used to conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 20 women providing long-term foster care in Australia. Thematic analysis revealed these women characterised themselves as mothers, rather than paid carers, to the long-term foster children in their care. Using this maternal self-perception as the starting point, this paper reveals some of the challenges and difficulties participants encountered when mothering within the confines of the child protection system. Implications for nursing practice are discussed. These implications focus on ways that nurses can effectively support foster carers, thus optimising the health and well-being of the vulnerable children in their care.