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The Dual Family Affiliation of the Child Placed in a Foster-to-Adopt Family: a Fragile Balance

Doris Chateauneuf, Béatrice Decaluwe, Geneviève Pagé

Research Framework: Foster-to-adopt families foster children intending to adopt them. Children placed in this type of resource are generally between the ages of 0-2 years and considered at high risk of abandonment, but they are not adoptable at the beginning of placement and most continue to see their birth parents through supervised visits.

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to shed light on the challenges that the child’s dual family affiliation poses for foster-to-adopt parents during placement. It aims to better understand how foster-to-adopt parents negotiate the child’s dual family connection during placement and throughout the adoption process.

Methodology: To meet these objectives, 31 semi-structured interviews were conducted with foster-to-adopt parents in three regions of Quebec. Parents were interviewed twice, once within a year of the start of the placement and again 18 months later.

Results: The results are based on four main themes: 1) foster-to-adopt parents’ perception of the child’s birth parents; 2) fears and apprehensions experienced about the child’s custody; 3) issues of naming and designating parents; and 4) the role of child welfare workers in the contact between the two families.

Conclusions: Family affiliation and relationships of children in foster-to-adopt placements are based on a fragile balance that can be explained in part by the distinct and sometimes opposing intentions of the foster-to-adopt parents and birth parents, but also by other factors such as the vulnerability of the birth parents, the profile of the children in care and variability of the child welfare workers’ practices.

Contribution: Foster-to-adopt placements remain little studied in Quebec. This study provides a better understanding of various issues underlying this type of placement in terms of family dynamics and relationships